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. Tue, 21 Oct 2014 18:05:29 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0 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 American-Spec Honda HR-V Revealed http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/american-spec-honda-hr-v-revealed/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/american-spec-honda-hr-v-revealed/#comments Tue, 21 Oct 2014 18:05:29 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=934570 As we learned last week, Honda’s first SUV wasn’t a Honda at all. Caught flat-footed by the SUV boom, Honda took some desperate measures to get bring something to market that had an “H” on the grille. While the CR-V came out at exactly the right time, Honda waited nearly a decade after the Passport’s […]

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As we learned last week, Honda’s first SUV wasn’t a Honda at all. Caught flat-footed by the SUV boom, Honda took some desperate measures to get bring something to market that had an “H” on the grille.

While the CR-V came out at exactly the right time, Honda waited nearly a decade after the Passport’s launch to come up with a large SUV. This time, they’re a little quicker in responding to the next wave of the SUV boom – the subcompact crossover.

The HR-V, already revealed as the “Vezel” in world markets, will go head to head with the Nissan Juke and Chevrolet Trax. Next month will bring the HR-V’s debut at the Los Angeles Auto Show, along with details on powertrain, equipment levels and maybe even pricing. Given the success of the CR-V and Pilot, it’s safe to assume that this will be a huge hit for Honda.

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Cadillac Dealers Prepare To Step Up, Or Leave, Sales Game Under De Nysschen http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/cadillac-dealers-prepare-step-leave-sales-game-de-nysschen/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/cadillac-dealers-prepare-step-leave-sales-game-de-nysschen/#comments Tue, 21 Oct 2014 14:00:13 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=934202 Facebook commenters and the automotive press aren’t the only ones feeling the lash from Cadillac boss Johan de Nysschen, as dealers themselves are feeling the pressure to step up their game. Automotive News reports that while some Cadillac dealerships have nothing to worry about, and are, in fact, completely on-board with de Nysschen’s alphanumeric global […]

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Facebook commenters and the automotive press aren’t the only ones feeling the lash from Cadillac boss Johan de Nysschen, as dealers themselves are feeling the pressure to step up their game.

Automotive News reports that while some Cadillac dealerships have nothing to worry about, and are, in fact, completely on-board with de Nysschen’s alphanumeric global vision, those on the low end of the totem pole fear they may be selling something else if they can’t compete on the level their new boss expects of them.

Specifically, de Nysschen may want to consolidate the brand’s network of 924 dealerships into a more BMW/Mercedes-esque number — hovering in the 330 – 370 range — with a similar focus on urban markets. Though neither he nor anyone representing Cadillac have stated such plans were on the table, dealers like Claude Burns and an unnamed dealer in the Midwest are going on the offensive to maintain their spots: a new expanded floorplan for the former, lawyering-up with an attorney who represented dealers during General Motors’ bankruptcy for the latter.

As for the boss himself, de Nysschen had this to say about the future of his dealerships after his meeting with them last month in Las Vegas, where he outlined his vision for the brand and their role in it:

It’s very clear to me that many, many dealers already have risen to the challenge. On the other hand, when those customers engage us in our dealerships, we cannot afford that the experience is anything other than confirming that this is a first-class brand. And not all of our dealers are there.

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NHTSA Issues Urgent Recall For Takata-Equipped Vehicles In Humid Climes http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/nhtsa-issues-urgent-recall-takata-equipped-vehicles-humid-climes/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/nhtsa-issues-urgent-recall-takata-equipped-vehicles-humid-climes/#comments Tue, 21 Oct 2014 13:00:55 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=934178 If you happen to own certain BMW, General Motors, Honda, Toyota, Mazda and Nissan vehicles, and reside in a humid climate, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is urging you to take it in for repairs linked to the Takata airbags installed. Though the agency didn’t explain exactly the need for urgency, the airbags made […]

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Takata Airbag Cutaway

If you happen to own certain BMW, General Motors, Honda, Toyota, Mazda and Nissan vehicles, and reside in a humid climate, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is urging you to take it in for repairs linked to the Takata airbags installed.

Though the agency didn’t explain exactly the need for urgency, the airbags made by Takata have been linked to humidity-related failures, where upon detonation, metal shrapnel would be sprayed into the cabin, injuring or killing all within.

Owners of the following affected vehicles may need to bring their vehicles in for repairs if they call Florida, Puerto Rico, Guam, Saipan, American Samoa, Virgin Islands or Hawaii home:

Toyota: 778,177 total number of vehicles potentially affected
2002 – 2004 Lexus SC
2003 – 2004 Toyota Corolla
2003 – 2004 Toyota Corolla Matrix
2002 – 2004 Toyota Sequoia
2003 – 2004 Toyota Tundra
2003 – 2004 Pontiac Vibe

Honda: 2,803,214 total number of potentially affected vehicles
2001 – 2007 Honda Accord (4 cyl)
2001 – 2002 Honda Accord (6 cyl)
2001 – 2005 Honda Civic
2002 – 2006 Honda CR-V
2003 – 2011 Honda Element
2002 – 2004 Honda Odyssey
2003 -2007 Honda Pilot
2006 Honda Ridgeline
2003 – 2006 Acura MDX
2002 -2003 Acura TL/CL

Nissan: 437,712 total number of potentially affected vehicles
2001 2003 Nissan Maxima
2001 – 2003 Nissan Pathfinder
2002 – 2003 Nissan Sentra
2001 – 2003 Infiniti I30/I35
2002 – 2003 Infiniti QX4
2003 Infiniti FX

Mazda: 18,050 total number of potentially affected vehicles
2003 – 2004 Mazda6
2004 Mazda RX-8

BMW: 573,935 total number of potentially affected vehicles
2000 – 2005 3 Series Sedan
2000 – 2006 3 Series Coupe
2000 – 2005 3 Series Sports Wagon
2000 – 2006 3 Series Convertible
2001 – 2006 M3 Coupe
2001 – 2006 M3 Convertible

General Motors: 133,221 total number potentially affected vehicles
2002 – 2003 Buick LeSabre
2002 – 2003 Buick Rendezvous
2002 – 2003 Cadillac DeVille
2002 – 2003 Chevrolet Trailblazer
2002 – 2003 Chevrolet Impala
2002 – 2003 Chevrolet Monte Carlo
2002 – 2003 Chevrolet Venture
2002 – 2003 GMC Envoy
2002 – 2003 GMC Envoy XL
2002 – 2003 Oldsmobile Aurora
2002 – 2003 Oldsmobile Bravada
2002 – 2003 Oldsmobile Silhouette
2002 – 2003 Pontiac Bonneville
2002 – 2003 Pontiac Montana

Recall letters are being sent out to affected owners, who can also look up their VIN through SaferCar.gov to determine if their vehicle is under recall.

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September 2014 Sales: Now Even The SRX Is Slowing Cadillac Down http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/september-2014-sales-now-even-srx-slowing-cadillac/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/september-2014-sales-now-even-srx-slowing-cadillac/#comments Tue, 21 Oct 2014 12:39:17 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=932522 Cadillac sales in the United States rose to a six-year high in 2013. Yet in five of 2014’s nine months, sales have declined. Through three-quarters, Cadillac volume is down 4%. Overall new vehicle sales in the U.S. are up by more than 5%. BMW, Mercedes-Benz, and Lexus sales are up 11%, 8%, and 16%, respectively, […]

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2015 Cadillac SRXCadillac sales in the United States rose to a six-year high in 2013. Yet in five of 2014’s nine months, sales have declined. Through three-quarters, Cadillac volume is down 4%. Overall new vehicle sales in the U.S. are up by more than 5%.

BMW, Mercedes-Benz, and Lexus sales are up 11%, 8%, and 16%, respectively, in 2014. Audi, up 14%, is routinely outselling Cadillac.

The SRX was a bright spot for Cadillac in the first half of this year, not only because it’s the brand’s best-selling model but because sales had jumped 20% compared with the first half of 2013. After six consecutive monthly increases, however, SRX sales in July slid 7%. August volume fell 37%. September sales dropped 15%.

Total third-quarter SRX sales were down 22%, a loss of nearly 3700 sales.

Meanwhile, September sales of Cadillac cars slid 14%. The new Escalade and Escalade ESV were saviors, rising 120% to 3518 units, 25% of Cadillac’s total September volume. As a result, overall Cadillac volume increased in September. By a single unit.

Had SRX volume not been so stable over the previous four and a half years, this 2014 Q3 result wouldn’t be surprising at all. Between 2010 and 2013, Cadillac averaged 55,565 SRX sales per year in the U.S, never falling below 51,000 units, never rising above 58,000. Year-to-date sales in 2014 are actually up 3%.

But the SRX is no longer the freshest chicken in the fridge. Supply has been increasing: Cadillac dealers had 97 days of inventory at the beginning of October, up from 82 in September and 68 at the beginning of July.

And yet the SRX is still one of America’s favourite premium brand utility vehicles, slotting in behind the Lexus RX, Acura MDX, and BMW X5 in September; the RX and MDX on year-to-date terms.

If Cadillac’s car issues weren’t so troubling – ATS volume is down 20% this year, the CTS is off by 6%, and the XTS by 22% – this recent SRX decline wouldn’t merit more than a paragraph. Instead, because their car sales are so low, Cadillac needs something other than the Escalade to sell well.

Based on a brief but sudden downturn, the second-generation SRX appears as though it is perhaps not consistently capable of being that vehicle, not five years into its term.

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Rental Review :2013 Chevrolet Cruze LT/RS http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/rental-review-2013-chevrolet-cruze-ltrs/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/rental-review-2013-chevrolet-cruze-ltrs/#comments Tue, 21 Oct 2014 12:30:25 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=933994 This was supposed to be a rental racetrack review. The plan was to to challenge Watkins Glen with Daewoo GM Korea Chevrolet’s well-received not-so-compact sedan, letting the 1.4L turbo engine drag us from Turn One to the Bus Stop under full throttle before putting the brakes up on a pinball table and giving them the […]

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This was supposed to be a rental racetrack review. The plan was to to challenge Watkins Glen with Daewoo GM Korea Chevrolet’s well-received not-so-compact sedan, letting the 1.4L turbo engine drag us from Turn One to the Bus Stop under full throttle before putting the brakes up on a pinball table and giving them the ol’ Jodie Foster* in preparation for the Outer Loop. This would be excellent practice for me and brother Bark as we prepared for AER’s first race at the Glen and it would also reveal quite a bit about the dynamic character of the “RS” package, which in time-honored RS fashion is entirely cosmetic in nature.

Alas, it was not to be. We’d have to be content with 1,222 miles in just 72 hours. So what’s this? Another Cruze review like this one and this one and this one? Not quite, because this time around I’d managed to rent something that wasn’t rental-spec at all.

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To begin with, this Cruze had a sunroof! I can vividly remember the last time I got a rental car with an optional sunroof; it was 1996, in Los Angeles, and the car in question was an oddball Mercury Sable LS with partial-leather seats and the 24-valve Duratec. Rental agencies are so sunroof-averse that their resale operations will actually install one for you if you insist on it. I would trust an aftermarket sunroof installed by Enterprise Car Sales about as far as I would trust a Chinese condom with incomprehensible characters all over it and a weird cartoon drawing of something halfway between a sunflower and Mikhail Gorbachev’s birthmark.

No, wait, hold on, I’d trust the aftermarket sunroof less, because every aftermarket sunroof I’ve ever tried has leaked and every… you don’t want to hear about this stuff, do you? Our proven market research shows that TTAC readers mostly want to hear about small-sample reliability data extrapolated beyond any possible reason. I feel confident, therefore, in saying that because nothing went wrong with this Cruze during my seventy-two hours with the car nothing will ever go wrong with any of them, ever.

The funny thing is that I would trust a Cruze to hold up. I’ve now put about five thousand miles on at least seven different Cruzes and I’ve never seen anything that raised my eyebrows. Insofar as the manufacture and distribution of vehicles that are reliable and durable in the long term is the very thing that made Toyota’s reputation in this country, I have to wonder how many people will consider GM in the future because they’ve been exposed to a high-mileage Cruze that still looks and drives like a new-ish car.

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Which this one certainly did, even with an odometer that rolled 40,000 during my trip. The interior was a significant upgrade on the poverty chic of the last high-mileage Cruze I drove, in a rather impressive combination of chocolate brown soft-touch plastic and cream leather. Between that and the full touchscreen MyLink system fitted to this example, I started to think I was in a bit of an entry-luxury car. There was no noticeable wear on any surface. The seats look like I wish the seats on my 49,000-mile Boxster S Anniversary looked — free of cracking or shiny spots — yet I’m willing to bet hard cash that, unlike my Boxster, this Cruze hasn’t been garaged indoors its entire life and lovingly treated to Lexol cleaner and conditioner every month or so.

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For much of the weekend, the Cruze was asked to ferry three people plus my RainSong JM1000 in the passenger compartment, a task it accomplished without difficulty but also without much legroom. It’s not a small car in most respects but I can’t imagine that anybody in Korea actually gets chauffeured in their Lacettis; there’d be no point to the exercise. Might as well get driven around in a ’76 Celica with the seat shoved all the way back.

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The upgraded front seats in this example remain short in the bolster and curiously undersized as a whole. They’re like 9/10ths scale seats, Smokey Yunick specials to make the rest of the interior feel bigger. As a result, I found myself bracing my right leg against the center console, where it rolled the temperature control to “hotter than balls” every time I shifted my knee. The sound system in this LT/RS was tinny and oddly short on bass; it also sounded noticeably worse through the AUX input than with a compact disc. Even though the compact disc in question was Mumford and Sons’ “Babel”.

“I cannot stand this,” one passenger moaned, switching the stereo back to “Aux”.

“Is this ‘Kirk Whalum Plays The Babyface Songbook’?” Bark inquired.

“Well,” I replied, “I heard you like jazz.” My previous long-distance drives in the Cruze have been in the cheapo 1.8-liter Ecotec models, but this one is the 1.4L turbo. This is what it’s good at: creating the impression of a much bigger, more powerful, smoothly confident engine at full throttle; pulling small hills without a triple downshift; returning 33.8mpg over 400 miles of freeway usage. This is what it’s not good at: full-throttle acceleration; long hills where the relatively flat torque curve cannot disguise the fact that you’re asking a 1.4L engine to motivate something about the curb weight of an old BMW 733i; making reassuring noises at idle and after shutoff instead of horrible thermal clacking and cracking.

The numbers are close between the two available Cruze engines but assuming the smaller-displacement turbo mill isn’t a hand grenade waiting to happen I’d take it every single time. Combined with the heavy but self-assured steering and dynamics that come standard in every Cruze the effect is sort of like the cheapo BMW F80 variants in many ways. It certainly feels at home on the freeway. In limited backroad driving around the Glen, the Cruze RS proved to be unenthusiastic but capable at moderate cornering speeds.

Unfortunately for me, a previous renter had already treated this Chevy’s brakes with profound disrespect, so every touch of the middle pedal resulted in the kind of shuddering that is more typically the precursor to an exploding Space Shuttle. It got to the point that I chose to use the kinda-Tiptronic as a brake on long hills, a choice neither appreciated nor endured with much grace by the slow-witted six-speed automatic.

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No doubt about it, after the first day or so this review will be read mostly by potential used-Cruze buyers relying on search engines to bring them unbiased opinions on the vehicle. So to those readers, I give you a Cruze Checklist. If you want:

* High-quality materials and workmanship, with the exception of the ignition switch
* Quiet freeway ride
* Good but not spectacular fuel economy
* Reasonable front-seat comfort
* Decent trunk space

then the Cruze is for you. If you want

* Speed, power, excitement
* Maximum efficiency
* Rear seat space
* The best sound system and Bluetooth integration possible
* The smallest possible footprint for urban parking or storage

then you’ll want to avoid the Cruze, because it has none of those things.

Four years ago, I wrote of the Cruze, “It’s well-positioned against the Civic and Corolla. I believe that it beats both of those cars in significant, measurable ways.” The Civic is refreshed and the Corolla is new since then, but I remain pretty steadfast about that statement. The Cruze has a lot of the common decency that was once the particular excellence of the post-1979 GM A-body sedans. Staid-looking, over-serious, unrelentingly unsentimental about things like sportiness and space efficiency, the Cruze continues to deliver what most Americans actually want in a small sedan, as opposed to what they tell people they want.

This RS version with all the gingerbread is worth seeking out in the used market. The question is: if these cars continue to hold up and perform well, will they still be a bargain? Maybe they’d be a bargain even at a higher price, assuming they don’t have any racetrack time on them.

Which reminds me: The reason I didn’t track the Cruze was simplicity itself. During my overnight drive to the Glen, I pulled in at a truck stop to get two hours of rest. It’s rare for me to be able to sleep more than about ninety minutes in a car without cramping or experiencing pain from all the places I’ve been cut up or broken a bone in the past. Imagine my surprise when I woke five hours later, too late to catch the morning street-car practice. So that’s the Cruze: too relaxing to be thrilling. Even with an “RS” badge.

* In all good conscience, I cannot toss off a joke in reference to The Accused without including a counterpoint — JB

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Los Angeles 2014: Honda HR-V, Acura ILX To Bow On The Red Carpet http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/los-angeles-2014-honda-hr-v-acura-ilx-bow-red-carpet/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/los-angeles-2014-honda-hr-v-acura-ilx-bow-red-carpet/#comments Tue, 21 Oct 2014 12:00:58 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=934146 Coming soon to an automotive red carpet near you: Honda’s new HR-V and Acura’s 2016 ILX. The former, seen only in photos when announced in New York earlier this year, will be making its North American debut at the 2014 Los Angeles Auto Show. The Fit-based crossover is expected to serve “as the entry point […]

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Coming soon to an automotive red carpet near you: Honda’s new HR-V and Acura’s 2016 ILX.

The former, seen only in photos when announced in New York earlier this year, will be making its North American debut at the 2014 Los Angeles Auto Show. The Fit-based crossover is expected to serve “as the entry point to the Honda light truck lineup,” consisting of the Ridgeline, Pilot and CR-V. The HR-V will take the stage sometime after 12:30 p.m. Pacific November 19.

Over at Acura, the Civic-based ILX will be debuting its new look for 2016, with the aim of firming up its appeal with customers in the entry-level premium market. The updates include a “more forceful, sporty exterior,” an unknown-yet-powerful powertrain, and new interior design. The sedan will roll up to the world’s stage at 9:30 a.m. Pacific November 20.

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Jaguar Land Rover Evaluating Locales For North American Plant http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/jaguar-land-rover-evaluating-locales-north-american-plant/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/jaguar-land-rover-evaluating-locales-north-american-plant/#comments Tue, 21 Oct 2014 11:00:52 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=934122 The United Auto Workers may soon need to add another transplant to convert as part of its Southern strategy: Jaguar Land Rover is considering setting up shop in the Southeastern United States as part of its global expansion plans. Autoblog reports the automaker is looking over potential real estate for a new North American factory, […]

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The United Auto Workers may soon need to add another transplant to convert as part of its Southern strategy: Jaguar Land Rover is considering setting up shop in the Southeastern United States as part of its global expansion plans.

Autoblog reports the automaker is looking over potential real estate for a new North American factory, honing in upon right-to-work states in the South such as South Carolina, where BMW already has a presence in Spartanburg assembling the X Series. The future plant would have a total capacity of 200,000 units produced per year.

Elsewhere, JLR welcomed all to its new factory in Changsu, China, where the real Evoque — as opposed to the “If you like Mrs. Beckham’s crossover, you’ll love ours” Landwind E32 — will roll off the line, with the new Discovery Sport to follow. Brazil will join the party with its own factory in 2016.

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Porsche 918 Hybrid Hypercar Nearly Sold Out http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/porsche-918-hybrid-hypercar-nearly-sold/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/porsche-918-hybrid-hypercar-nearly-sold/#comments Tue, 21 Oct 2014 10:00:23 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=934098 Saving your pennies for a Porsche 918 Spyder? You may want to go ahead and take out a loan to get the down payment on the table, for the hybrid hypercar is nearly sold out. Automotive News reports production of the 918 will draw to a close in July 2015, while planned production is sold […]

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Saving your pennies for a Porsche 918 Spyder? You may want to go ahead and take out a loan to get the down payment on the table, for the hybrid hypercar is nearly sold out.

Automotive News reports production of the 918 will draw to a close in July 2015, while planned production is sold out through early April at the latest, according to Porsche Cars North America vice president of marketing, Andre Oosthuizen.

Regarding how many have been made thus far, Oosthuizen declined to say more than that it was doing well for itself. He added that 30 of the $847,945 spyders were delivered to customers around the world — each bestowing Porsche a deposit of $200,000 for the opportunity to own one — thus far.

 

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TTAC AMA: I Own A Pontiac G8 With A Holden Commodore Conversion http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/ttac-ama-pontiac-g8-holden-commodore-conversion/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/ttac-ama-pontiac-g8-holden-commodore-conversion/#comments Mon, 20 Oct 2014 20:00:44 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=933386 This week’s AMA comes courtesy of reader APaGttH, who has a Pontiac G8 GT that has been converted into a Holden Commodore replica. Read on below to hear the story. Seeing the handwriting on the wall for Pontiac, and after my one week experience with a 2008 V6 rental, I purchased my Pontiac G8 GT in […]

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Pontiac G8 GT current state
This week’s AMA comes courtesy of reader APaGttH, who has a Pontiac G8 GT that has been converted into a Holden Commodore replica. Read on below to hear the story.

Seeing the handwriting on the wall for Pontiac, and after my one week experience with a 2008 V6 rental, I purchased my Pontiac G8 GT in May of 2009. This is an early production 2009 GT, called a 9L1 car in G8 owner lingo, built in June of 2008. The car is White Hot (or Heron White if you’re not from North America) with the premium package, sport package, and sunroof. Just 60 days after purchase, the car got shelled by a gravel truck causing over $2000 in paint, headlamp and glass damage. It was only by coincidence and blind luck that the restomod work done produced a “2010” Holden Commodore SS V-Series Special Edition. The additional modifications, and eliminating a number of GM bean counter decisions continued from there. I have drag raced, auto crossed, and lapped in the G8 and found it a very competent platform, outside of being under braked. I pulled a 13.354 quarter mile at 105.85 MPH using a Cortex tuner only on stock rubber in very damp, cold conditions at Bremerton Motorsports Park in 2009. Currently I have 34K miles and although not my retirement plan, I have no intentions of selling the garage queen. Ask your questions!
Pontiac G8 GT at Uluaru 3 Pontiac G8 GT at Ulurau 2 Pontiac G8 GT at Ulurau Pontiac G8 GT brand new and before any modifications - June 2009 Pontiac G8 GT center stack with Holden triple gauges Pontiac G8 GT current state Pontiac G8 GT engine bay plaque in kW and Nm Pontiac G8 GT Holden SS dash cluster Pontiac G8 GT Infotainment screen modified to support Vehicle In Motion showing MP3 integration Pontiac G8 GT rear with Australian license plate Pontiac G8 GT with Holden converted interior LHD
 

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Bark’s Bites: Fear, Trust, and Character Are All Revealed By the Glen http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/barks-bites-fear-trust-character-revealed-glen/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/barks-bites-fear-trust-character-revealed-glen/#comments Mon, 20 Oct 2014 16:05:48 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=933882 The writer has an obligation to put the reader in his shoes, to vividly describe his reality in a way that is descriptive enough to allow the reader to vicariously share his experiences. It is likely, dear reader, that I shall fail you today in my attempt to share my experience from this past weekend, […]

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The writer has an obligation to put the reader in his shoes, to vividly describe his reality in a way that is descriptive enough to allow the reader to vicariously share his experiences. It is likely, dear reader, that I shall fail you today in my attempt to share my experience from this past weekend, but let me attempt by starting with this:

Watkins Glen is perilously wondrous.

If the top of the Pyramid of Speed is represented by wheel-to-wheel racing, then racing at the Glen represents the final brick at the summit, cemented by years and years of tireless labor. This is no country club track, with acres of runoff space. If you make a mistake at Watkins Glen, you will hit something, and you will hit it with remarkable velocity.

We started the first of two seven and a half hour American Endurance Racing contests with thirty-three cars. Fewer than twenty would finish the second such contest on Sunday. Unfortunately, our entry was not one of the survivors—a spinning and sliding E30 collected us in the boot in our twenty-sixth lap, sending TTAC’s tame racing driver into the Armco barrier at speeds severe enough to crumple our fender and irreparably damage our suspension. The blue paint that now adorns Matt Johnston’s remarkable FC RX-7 is worn as badge of honor, a tattoo that has been inked onto many of the world’s most daring chariots.

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Although I was extremely disappointed that we were taken out of Sunday’s race only an hour or so into it, somewhere in a deep recess of my heart, I was relieved. Why? Because it meant that I wouldn’t have to face the beast that is the Glen for a second day.

The Glen is a relic of older times. No SAFER barriers exist, just steel walls that bear the marks of racers who were unable to escape its clutches. The climbing esses out of Turn Two require courage above and beyond that which most men outside of a combat zone will ever have to display. Each of the over thirty times I ascended them, I said a silent prayer to myself and firmly planted the accelerator to the floor. The lateral G force was tremendous, forcing me to brace myself against the fortuitous cage of the Mazda. Our Yokohamas never failed me here, but they couldn’t quite handle the rain later in the day with Jack at the helm, sending the car backwards off track at speeds in excess of 100 miles per hour in the rain directly and miraculously into the safety vehicle area.

Others would not be so lucky. Full-course caution was the rule, not the exception, as I saw several cars that were unable to walk the finest of lines between speed and danger tumble off the asphalt. The other RX-7 that entered the field on Saturday plunged nose first into the tire wall off on Turn Six. An E30 was on its side, its roof crushed against the Armco. Another BMW only completed one lap before it smashed backward against the barrier. Each car the Glen defeated served as a reminder that no mistakes would be tolerated.

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Thank God that my mistake was. The consistently wet and cold conditions we faced all weekend caused some condensation to form on the pedals. Heading up the hill into Turn Nine, my foot slipped off the brake, and tapped the accelerator, launching me up and over the hill into what I knew would be a certain high impact incident. In that moment, I pictured the nose of the Mazda exploding all around me, the shower of plastic and metal creating a sort of snow angel around the silhouette of the car. How hard was I going to hit? How much would it hurt? Would the HANS device do its job, or would my family be attending a service in my honor on Monday?

The hit never came. Serendipity was my mistress, as I had made my mistake in the only turn on track where I could have done so and gotten away with it. The Sprint Cup cars don’t run the boot, and as such there is a runoff area in Six where the Cup cars have a straightaway. I collected the car, made a u-turn, and re-entered the racing line. I lost about four seconds that lap, but they were easily the longest four seconds of my life.

Time and time again, I would enter turns at mind-boggling speed right next to fellow ascenders of the Pyramid. Time and time again, the mutual trust and respect we showed each other as colleagues allowed us to exit unscathed. One such instance occurred in Turn One as the green flag waved following yet another full course caution. I had timed the restart well and had considerable momentum on the cars directly ahead of me. In a split second, I had a decision to make—would I stay in line and ensure a safe exit of the turn, or would I dive bomb into the corner and execute a pass? I chose the latter, taking an inside line and braking one, two, three counts later than every fiber in my being wanted to. I cranked hard to the right and put the power down, letting the low-end torque of the mighty GM V6 slide me out of the corner in front of my peers. That pass gained me three positions on track, a position I would maintain until I entered the pits.

Why do I use the words “colleagues” and “peers” to describe my competitors? Because that’s what they were at the Glen. Yes, I was trying to beat them, but I also knew that I wanted them to survive the race, and that they felt them same way about me. Seven and a half hours is a long time to battle the Glen and come out whole. Nobody wants to see flashing lights on track. Grievously, we did, and on more than one occasion. Sometimes they were of the yellow variety. Much too often, they were of the red variety.

If this post seems somewhat stream of consciousness, forgive me. The pure emotion I have as I sit in the Elmira/Corning airport, writing this on a Monday morning, is nearly overwhelming. To have raced on the same track as my heroes—not just driven, but raced—and to have come away unharmed is a powerful feeling.

All wheel-to-wheel racing is special. All tracks have their own charm. But when I went to trackdecals.com and ordered my Watkins Glen International sticker from the safety of my hotel room last night, I felt something different. I felt pride. I felt awe. I felt humility. Thank you, Watkins Glen. I’ll be back next year to test my personal mettle again.

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UAW, Political Leaders Uniting To Keep Wrangler In Ohio http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/uaw-political-leaders-uniting-keep-wrangler-ohio/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/uaw-political-leaders-uniting-keep-wrangler-ohio/#comments Mon, 20 Oct 2014 14:00:55 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=933842 With the possibility of an aluminum Jeep Wrangler being built elsewhere, the United Auto Workers and political leaders are coming together to convince Fiat Chrysler Automobiles to keep the icon in Toledo, Ohio. Automotive News reports the gathering will occur Monday at the UAW Local 12, with U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown, U.S. Representative Marcy Kaptur, […]

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With the possibility of an aluminum Jeep Wrangler being built elsewhere, the United Auto Workers and political leaders are coming together to convince Fiat Chrysler Automobiles to keep the icon in Toledo, Ohio.

Automotive News reports the gathering will occur Monday at the UAW Local 12, with U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown, U.S. Representative Marcy Kaptur, and Toledo mayor D. Michael Collins joining the group of workers, local leaders and members of the community to launch a campaign to keep the Wrangler at the Chrysler Assembly Plant, where 1,700 (out of a total of over 6,000) help assemble the icon with the help of 800 employed by neighborhood suppliers.

The campaign is set to begin as FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne warned that should the next-generation Wrangler be based upon an aluminum unibody, it would be built elsewhere:

If the solution is aluminum, then I think unfortunately that Toledo is the wrong place, the wrong setup to try and build a Wrangler, because it requires a complete reconfiguring of the assets that would be cost-prohibitive. It would be so outrageously expensive that it would be impossible to try and work out of that facility.

UAW Local 12 president Bruce Baumhower invited 40 elected officials and local businessmen to the gathering, with the intent of establishing a task force set to address the issues that would take the Wrangler out of Toledo.

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QOTD: Another Member Of The Brown Wagon Club? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/qotd-another-member-brown-wagon-club/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/qotd-another-member-brown-wagon-club/#comments Mon, 20 Oct 2014 13:32:46 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=933906 While helping my grandmother hunt for a new car, I tried to steer her towards a Mazda3 Sport. She didn’t take to the “game changer” (which is the tagline for the car’s marketing campaign, not an attempt to cash in on my catch phrase), but I did notice a similar example on the lot. This […]

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While helping my grandmother hunt for a new car, I tried to steer her towards a Mazda3 Sport. She didn’t take to the “game changer” (which is the tagline for the car’s marketing campaign, not an attempt to cash in on my catch phrase), but I did notice a similar example on the lot.

This color, called “Titanium Flash”, looks more like brown to me. As far as I’m concerned, the line between station wagon, hatchback and CUV has been sufficiently blurred that this can qualify as a member of the mythical brown wagon species – and you can get it in a manual as well. I’ll defer to the B&B on this one, but as far as I’m concerned, it’s time to count every possible example to help shore up ranks.

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Mercedes Turns Former Naval Base Into Autonomous Testing Ground http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/mercedes-turns-former-naval-base-autonomous-testing-ground/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/mercedes-turns-former-naval-base-autonomous-testing-ground/#comments Mon, 20 Oct 2014 13:00:56 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=933802 With the highway mostly conquered, autonomous vehicles now must navigate the cities through which they would otherwise pass by, a challenge unto itself with few proving grounds available for research. Mercedes-Benz, however, happened upon a solution not too far from its R&D base in Sunnyvale, Calif. Automotive News reports the automaker is testing its autonomous […]

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With the highway mostly conquered, autonomous vehicles now must navigate the cities through which they would otherwise pass by, a challenge unto itself with few proving grounds available for research.

Mercedes-Benz, however, happened upon a solution not too far from its R&D base in Sunnyvale, Calif.

Automotive News reports the automaker is testing its autonomous vehicles at the Concord Naval Weapons Station, a military base decommissioned in 2005 that may be redeveloped in the future.

Until then, Concord will be used as a “starter city” for autonomous city driving and navigation research and development. The strategy allows Mercedes “to run simulation tests with self-driving vehicles in a secure way, including specific hazardous situations,” per the brand’s head of autonomous driving, Axel Gern.

As for why Concord and similar spaces, such as the NASA facility Google uses to test its commuter pod, are in play over actual cities, Gartner analyst Thilo Koslowski says “existing proving grounds are not challenging enough,” while real-life testing is “too challenging at this point.” Further, both spaces are owned by the federal government, bestowing researchers the opportunity to test their theories without the California legislature dictating otherwise.

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Paul Elio Responds to Skeptics http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/paul-elio-responds-skeptics/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/paul-elio-responds-skeptics/#comments Mon, 20 Oct 2014 12:30:20 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=932193 The Elio Motors project continues to generate skepticism. The latest is a post by Tavarish at Jalopnik’s CarBuying Kinja subsite giving us a half dozen reasons while the high mpg reverse trike will never come to be, Six Things That Could Kill Elio Motors Before It Even Launches. Tavarish isn’t the only skeptic. The consensus among […]

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The Elio Motors project continues to generate skepticism. The latest is a post by Tavarish at Jalopnik’s CarBuying Kinja subsite giving us a half dozen reasons while the high mpg reverse trike will never come to be, Six Things That Could Kill Elio Motors Before It Even Launches. Tavarish isn’t the only skeptic. The consensus among automotive writers seems to be highly critical. While I enjoy being a contrarian and going against the stream I still don’t want to be a cheerleader for Paul Elio and his team, but I have to confess that there’s romance in the idea of someone starting their own car company. I also think that there is no reason short of raising enough money why they can’t put the car into production and meet their performance and safety specifications. I’m not so sure about Elio Motors meeting their $6,800 price point but I still don’t think the latest criticism is completely fair.

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First, I’m not naive. I recognize that the people at Elio have gone out of their way to cultivate good relations with this site and with me personally. A major reason for that is that unlike most of the skeptics, I’ve actually spoken with executives at Elio, including their head of manufacturing, their director of sales and Paul Elio himself. I’ve also corresponded directly with Stuart Lichter, a company backer who’s the middleman in the real estate deal for the former GM assembly plant in Shreveport, Louisiana. Everyone involved with the company has always answered all of my questions directly, with no evasions. Everything has been transparent, from my perspective at least.

A few weeks ago Elio’s PR guy contacted me with what he hyped as important news, the fact that Comau, the company that is supplying Elio with automation services at the Shreveport plant, will start selling off surplus machinery and equipment in the factory that wont be needed by Elio. I had a couple of questions about the financing of the equipment purchase and their rep gave me Paul Elio’s phone number, but the story didn’t really seem important enough to be of interest to our readers and I’m not simply going to run a press releasey post, so I didn’t call him at the time.

Since I do have a stake, as a writer, in the Elio story, I read Tavarish’s post with interest and I was disappointed that like many of the skeptics, he made a lot of speculation without checking either with the company or their suppliers. Having Mr. Elio’s number in my email in box, I texted him and asked when it would be a convenient time to call if he wanted to respond to the criticisms raised in the Jalopnik post. He called me and he answered the questions raised by Tavarish pretty much point by point.

Point one was that the Elio three wheeler is not a car, that legally it’s a motorcycle and that motorcycle helmet and licensing laws will hinder consumer acceptance. The Elio’s legal status as a motorcycle also means that it does not have to meet Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards, including passing crash testing, that automobiles and light trucks have to achieve. I didn’t ask Elio about the motorcycle laws that will affect drivers because the vehicle is what it is. The vast majority of states won’t require Elio drivers to wear helmets and 45 of 50 won’t require them for drivers over the age of 21. Forty five? That number sounds familiar. Oh, right, that’s the number of states where Tesla sells cars. If that’s enough Americans to launch a relatively niche luxury vehicle, it’s probably enough to launch something economical. We’ll return to Tesla later.

As for the car’s safety, Elio has claimed that it will meet NHTSA’s “five star” crash worthiness standards. Tavarish is skeptical because motorcycles don’t even have to be crash tested. In my most recent post on the Elio three wheeler, when I got to drive the prototype, something almost none of the skeptics have done, I asked Paul Elio about crash testing and he said that it was possible, perhaps likely, that because of the vehicle’s status as a motorcycle that NHTSA won’t crash test it. He said that if that transpires, the company will have private firm put the trike through identical testing and that they will publish the results.

Tavarish’s second point also has to do with the fact that it’s a motorcycle. Elio Motors has been promoting their vehicle as environmentally friendly, based on it’s projected 84 mpg on the highway. Tavarish points out that Elio doesn’t talk much about the emissions side of being green and he’s skeptical of Elio’s claims that the vehicle will pass California’s stringent pollution testing, figuring that motorcycles have to meet their own standards in California, that Elio will use that loophole to avoid equipping their trike with “all that messy and expensive emissions equipment, like evaporative emissions canisters, exhaust gas recirculation, and even the staple of cleaner air technology in cars – the catalytic converter.”

Paul Elio told me that Johnson Matthey, who supply about a third of the catalytic converters currently being installed by auto manufacturers worldwide, will be supplying them with the catalytic part of the pollution control device. Eastern Catalytic will be “canning” the converter and supplying the rest of the vehicle’s exhaust system. The Elio 0.9 liter three cylinder, designed by IAV, will feature EGR and variable valve timing as part of its emissions package.  The fuel tank, fuel pressure lines, and returns will be supplied by ABC Fuel Systems will be compliant with automotive standards for evaporative emissions.

Tavarish makes much about the fact that that pollution equipment is proposed for an engine that does not yet exist. All of the prototypes so far have used the Suzuki triples out of Geo Metros. In August, when I last spoke with Paul Elio, he told me that the major engine components for the first prototype had been cast and that it would take a couple of months to get all  the parts in and everything machined before they’d be able to put it together. According to Elio, he current status of the prototype engine is that it’s been assembled and spun without power to make sure there are no interferences. It was then torn down and it is currently being reassembled in a more laborious process that involves checking all tolerances, torques etc. The target date for dyno testing is November 15th. Elio told me that assuming they meet power and torque specs they will run the engine to failure. Following that, 25 validation examples of the engine will be built for pre-production pilot vehicles, some of which will be used for crash testing.

I’d like to point out that with today’s digital tools, engine design is not as hit or miss (no pun intended) as it once was. The use of modeling and simulation software means that if it works in the digital domain it will almost certainly work when made out of metal. Ecomotors, the engine startup (again, no pun intended), has skipped actually building some generations of the prototype design because it was a waste of time just to make sure they worked.

Of Tavarish’s six reasons, the next one is the strongest, whether or not the company has enough money to get to production. Tavarish cites Jo Borras‘ calculation that they’ll need about $200 million to pull it off. While Borras has been one of the most outspoken skeptics, Paul Elio told me that Borras’ figure (and he mentioned him by name) was probably accurate. When I asked him where the money will come from, he said “a variety of funding sources”. Some of the money will come from customer reservations, which are currently at just over 35,000 and increasing at about 6,500 a month. Current investors, whom Elio says are very happy with how things are going, will also be asked to pony up additional capital. Another source of capital will be from selling off unneeded machinery in Shreveport. The reason why they were hyping the surplus machinery and equipment sale was that they now hope to clear between 30 and 40 million dollars from those sales, a big fraction of the money they need.

The equipment to be sold was purchased by Elio Motors from the RACER trust with $26 million in financing. Elio volunteered that he “overpaid a little but not a lot”. At first the plan was to sell it at auction but manufacturing has picked up a bit in the U.S. and machinery prices have gone up. So much so that the auction idea has been killed and now Comau will be going through all of the equipment, testing it to make sure it works and preparing it for individual sale. This way they can ask a higher price than if the machinery was sold covered with dust at a one day auction. Comau will be both selling the gear on the open market and using it to offer their worldwide automation customers an economical alternative to new machinery.

When all that is sold, Elio says that there still will be hundreds of millions of dollars worth of plant equipment that they will be using. Buying a recently closed auto assembly plant can be a good deal. That factory was building midsize pickups not very long ago. The plant is fairly modern and includes an EPA compliant paint shop, perhaps the most expensive part of a modern car factory because it is robot intensive and must comply with air pollution regulations.

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Elio engine mockup. Full gallery here

Elio isn’t certain that they’ll meet their financial objectives and lots of car company startups never got off the ground but he’s optimistic. “What we’re doing is hard, ” Elio told TTAC, “but it’s well thought out and we have the right people and suppliers”.

One hint of where they may get funds has to do with geography. Elio’s headquarters is in suburban Detroit and Paul Elio and his team are based near Phoenix, Arizona, but he called me from Washington D.C. It interesting that he’s in the nation’s capitol just days after the Department of Energy said that it will be restarting the Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing loan program. Only about $10 billion of the $25 billion that was allocated was loaned out before the program was put on hiatus in the wake of the failure of Fisker Automotive, which received over half a billion in ATVM money. After the bankruptcy sale of Fisker assets, the DoE lost about $139 milion on the loan. Though the Elio trike doesn’t really use any alternative technologies, it is supposed to be fuel efficient and while the usually reliable David Shepardson of the Detroit News reports that most of the new loans will go to suppliers, I’m guessing that Elio Motors may apply for an ATVM loan.

The Kinja post also takes issue with how Elio is promoting itself and its proposed product. Tavarish says that the company doesn’t have a clear idea who will be their customer and that their promotional videos are lame. Elio conceded to me that they have a very limited advertising budget.  The particular video was shot two years ago, with the P2 prototype (TTAC tested P4), and while there are videos of the current prototype, produced both by Elio and by media outlets, including TTAC, most of the marketing effort is focused in three directions. There is an ongoing road show, taking the prototype(s) to events around the country that attract large crowds and those displays are usually coordinated with some kind of local or network news coverage, but most of the promotional effort is placed online.

Tavarish concentrates on the fact that Elio is at least in part promoting their trike as an “and” car, a second or third car devoted to commuting. In addition to making an obligatory comment about the typical Elio driver lacking female companionship (and, hey, I made a similar joke but actually at the Woodward Dream Cruise stop on the road show the truth is that it seemed to me that as many women were interested as men) he lists the aspects of the car and of potential Elio buyers in a manner that shows that there just aren’t many folks who will be in the target market, someone who can afford a quirky second or third car but who is also cheap enough to be attracted by the low price and great fuel economy. That may be true but there aren’t that many people who fit the stereotype of the characters on Big Bang Theory but the show’s popular enough to be in syndication. Tavarish does concede that the little three wheeler is”likable”.

The marketing strategy that Tavarish compared to throwing spaghetti on the wall and seeing what sticks may be a bit more focused than that. While the road show exposes the Elio to whomever randomly happens to walk buy at a big event, the online marketing looks to me to be indeed focused, albeit on people who might already show an interest in the tandem reverse trike. At least based on how the ads in my browser are acting, Elio is spending money on online ads targeted at people who have either visited the Elio website or used the name on a search engine. I’m not sure exactly how it’s done, but online advertisers have a way of aiming their ads that are the result of a little spying on us. I’m working on an idea for a musical instrument so now I see a lot of ads for Guitar Center. Back when I reviewed a Jaguar, my browser would display ads for that brand. Before today I hadn’t been at the Elio website or put the name in a search engine since August and I was still getting ads for the Elio trike when I’d go online. By some measures, the marketing is working. Paul Elio told me that the Elio Motors website is getting about 550,000 visitors a month, which he claims is more than a bunch of established automakers’ websites get.

Tavarish’s final point is that the Elio trike is not a gamechanger. As an example of a gamechanger, he cites the Ford Fusion Tesla Model S. I’m not sure why it makes sense to compare the Elio to a luxury EV that costs more than ten times its price. Nobody’s going to crossshop a Tesla and an Elio, though I’m guessing that since a lot of Teslas are also used as “and” cars, they’re not the only vehicle owned by those families. Considering that for affluent Tesla owners, who are the definition of early adopters, the relatively low MSRP of the Elio has the nature of an impulse purchase, Tesla owners may actually consider an Elio as a third or fourth car.

Tesla does happen to be relevant to Elio, if not as a competitor than as a role model. Elio is planning on selling their cars through company owned stores (and have them serviced at Pep Boys), as Tesla does. Paul Elio told me that besides the 45 states that allow direct manufacturer car sales, of the five states that have strong dealer franchise laws, they think they can use their status as a motorcycle maker to get around those laws in three of those jurisdictions and that they’ll be piggybacking (my term, not his) on Tesla’s lobbying and legal efforts in the remaining two states.

I’ve said it before, going forward, everything that Elio has to do to get to production is out in the open. The engine will either run on the dyno or it won’t. The 25 preproduction cars will be built or they won’t. I’ve also said, all along, that there is ample reason for the Elio critics’ skepticism, but so far the automotive startup keeps meeting their objectives, albeit in a delayed manner. As long as they keep meeting those objectives, I’ll keep a fair and open mind about the Elio enterprise.

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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Piston Slap: MT 6-speed Hyundai Sonata…Coda? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/piston-slap-mt-6-speed-hyundai-sonata-coda/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/piston-slap-mt-6-speed-hyundai-sonata-coda/#comments Mon, 20 Oct 2014 12:04:42 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=933514   TTAC commentator Arthur Dailey writes: Sajeev, Over 40+ years of driving, I have traditionally changed cars every 2 years and never kept one for longer than 5 years or 150,000km. However I made my most recent car purchase with the intention of keeping it for 8 years or 200,000km. With the belief that in modern […]

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This just happened. (photo courtesy: autojunction.in)

TTAC commentator Arthur Dailey writes:

Sajeev,

Over 40+ years of driving, I have traditionally changed cars every 2 years and never kept one for longer than 5 years or 150,000km. However I made my most recent car purchase with the intention of keeping it for 8 years or 200,000km.

With the belief that in modern autos perhaps the most expensive item to repair is the transmission (owning 4 Caravans in the preceding 15 years reinforced this), following the truism that “it is more fun to drive a slow car fast than a fast car slow”, and being admittedly George Costanza like in my spending habits I ordered a vehicle with a manual transmission. Yes, a manual Hyundai Sonata.

Nobody at the dealership had ever seen one. They even had problems confirming that it came with a traditional hand brake (it does but in return you don’t get heated seats). But find one they did. Unfortunately after taking possession and performing some routine cleaning, I found that the filters were rather dirty for a new car. Checking the manufacturer’s plate I found that it had been made 14 months previously and therefore had been sitting on the lot for nearly that long , exposed to the elements for at least one full winter.

So my questions:

  • Will sitting out on a dealer’s lot for 13+ months reduce the longevity of some parts?
  • Was I correct in assuming that a manual transmission will both last longer and cost less to maintain than an automatic or was I ‘penny wise and pound foolish’?
  • Should I expect a modern car including a Korean one built in Alabama, to be relatively problem free as long as I follow the manufacturer’s maintenance schedule, rust proof it annually and drive like the old fogey that I have become?

Sajeev answers:

Yes! We’re actually discussing the manual 6-speed Hyundai Sonata and its sister ship Kia Optima that I really, reeeeeeally wanted in brown with black cloth. Turns out I needed a 5MT truck more. But I digress…

Shine on you crazy diamond, enjoy your South Korean Unicorn!

Luckily, your first question was previously covered.  Assuming it’s been driven after purchase, you’ve cleared the “bad” gas and rusted brakes/flat spotted tires.  I think a good detail/cleaning of the vinyl/rubber/leather bits (both inside and outside) is all that’s needed to ensure the patient’s long term health.  Maybe do an engine oil change, if you haven’t done it already under normal maintenance. You got nothing to worry about.

Question 2: I can see why you are conditioned to fear transmission/transaxle replacement costs, but you’ve owned older Chryslers.  Own something from Germany and the fancy tv screens should absolutely terrify you. Or fixing bent rims.  Or a suspension overhaul from years of abuse causing bent rims. I’d be more terrified of any car rollin’ on twankies more than any transmission woe.  And is an automatic really more durable than a manual?

I donno, dude.  200,000km isn’t a long time by non-Chrysler-minivan standards. I’ve seen auto transmissions last 400,000km with nothing more than occasional ATF fluid swaps.  If you are easy on the clutch, you are fine. If not, you might need a clutch swap and completely destroy the value proposition mentioned. Don’t be that guy! 

Question 3: Problems with the Sonata and Optima have been sparse, just look at the TSBs generated.  Undercoat/rust proof, follow the owner’s manual, don’t abuse the gearbox (good luck finding a replacement in North America) and you’ll be fine.

And you might love the 6-speed Hyundai Sonata so much that you’ll keep it well beyond 200,000kms.  You “old fogeys” (your term) need to understand that most modern vehicles last longer than cars from decades past.  Rust proof this one well and I’m confident you’ll agree.

 

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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Chrysler Twins Rank First And Second Among Minivans In 2014 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/chrysler-twins-ranked-first-second-among-minivans-2014/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/chrysler-twins-ranked-first-second-among-minivans-2014/#comments Mon, 20 Oct 2014 12:02:04 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=932466 Only twice in the last six years have one of the Chrysler Group’s minivans been America’s top-selling minivan. America’s best-selling minivan in 2008 and 2009 was the Honda Odyssey, which also led the segment in 2013. The Toyota Sienna was America’s best-selling minivan in 2011. Yet through the first nine months of 2014, not only […]

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2015 Dodge Grand CaravanOnly twice in the last six years have one of the Chrysler Group’s minivans been America’s top-selling minivan. America’s best-selling minivan in 2008 and 2009 was the Honda Odyssey, which also led the segment in 2013. The Toyota Sienna was America’s best-selling minivan in 2011.

Yet through the first nine months of 2014, not only is the Chrysler Town & Country America’s top-selling minivan, but its twin, the Dodge Grand Caravan, ranks second in the class, 8431 sales ahead of the third-ranked Odyssey. The Chrysler and Dodge haven’t finished a calendar year as the two top-ranked minivans since 2005. 

Granted, even during the years in which the Odyssey or Sienna led the category, the Chrysler/Dodge twins combined for superior market share. We also know that these vans are fleet favourites, assisting in the generation of volume outside of a retail environment. Moreover, competitors produce higher transaction prices, especially the Odyssey, while the Grand Caravan is geared towards value-minded family buyers.

But the news that these twins combined to finish the months of March, April, May, June, and September as the two leaders of the category is pertinent given FCA’s intentions for their Ontario-assembled vans and the recent growth in the category.

2011 Chrysler Town & CountryAfter five consecutive years of decline ending in 2009, overall minivan volume grew 7% in 2010, 3% in 2011, and 13% in 2012, then declined 4% to a two-year low last year. Minivan sales in 2014 are up 6%, meaning the category is on track for its best year since 2008, when the Odyssey’s two-year reign began.

We published a chart just last month looking at the increased market share of the twins in 2014, rising from 44% during the first eight months of 2013 to 49% this year. With three-quarters under our belt, the Town & Country and Grand Caravan now own 50% of the market, up from 45% a year ago. Town & Country volume is up 19%, a near 18,000-unit improvement. Grand Caravan sales have improved by 12,501 units, a 14% jump. Jointly, their sales are up 17% to 212,411 units, 13.7% of Chrysler Group’s year-to-date volume, up from 13.4% at this time a year ago. (Including the Ram Cargo Van, they account for 14.1% of all Chrysler Group sales.)

Resting on laurels is genuinely thought to be a bad idea. These vans are in need of an update, and their consistently held status of sales leaderboard top dogs hides the fact that so much of their appeal comes down to price. (And Stow ‘N Go!) They’re the least efficient vans in the class. Their second rows aren’t as comfortable or as spacious as the seats in, for example, the Sienna. They don’t offer eight-passenger seating.

Nevertheless, it would be easier to understand FCA’s decision to severely alter the Town & Country/Grand Caravan model structure if the trend was heading in the opposite direction, as it did in 2011, when their market share decreased to 41.7% from 45% in 2010. On the other hand, should an automaker stick to tried-and-true product plans in a category that’s declined in size by 48% over the last decade, even if that category is showing moderate signs of renewed health?

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Los Angeles 2014: Mercedes Maybach Set To Debut http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/los-angeles-2014-mercedes-maybach-set-debut/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/los-angeles-2014-mercedes-maybach-set-debut/#comments Mon, 20 Oct 2014 12:00:51 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=933770 Once a name best known for providing a platform for Kanye West’s and Jay Z’s Mad Maxian fantasies, Maybach is set to return from the grave under the bright lights of the 2014 Los Angeles Auto Show as a Mercedes model. Car & Driver reports the Maybach will be around 18 feet in length, slotting […]

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Maybach-badge

Once a name best known for providing a platform for Kanye West’s and Jay Z’s Mad Maxian fantasies, Maybach is set to return from the grave under the bright lights of the 2014 Los Angeles Auto Show as a Mercedes model.

Car & Driver reports the Maybach will be around 18 feet in length, slotting between the S550 and the deceased Maybach 57, according to head of global design, Gordon Wagener.

Other features include a turbocharged V12, rear-wheel drive, Mercedes’ Magic Body Control suspension, luxurious materials, and a badge here and there to let the proletariat know a god and/or goddess is being chauffeured, not some Silicon Valley dirtbag.

The Mercedes Maybach will be going up against Bentley and Rolls-Royce in the Grey Poupon delivery game, with the Maybach name becoming a sub-brand like AMG. That move could, in turn, allow for more models down the road, such as an SUV based on the GL-Class, as well as a coupe and/or convertible derived from the S-Class.

As for price of admission, all that has been said is that it will be lower than the Maybach models from just a few years ago.

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Exported To Detroit: Next Ford Focus RS Won’t Be Built In Michigan http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/exported-detroit-next-ford-focus-rs-wont-built-michigan/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/exported-detroit-next-ford-focus-rs-wont-built-michigan/#comments Mon, 20 Oct 2014 12:00:46 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=933714 Fans of fast Fords will be glad to know that our sources at the Blue Oval have confirmed that the Ford Focus RS is on its way for a 2016 debut. It will be (relatively) affordable, provide a measurable performance boost above a Focus ST, and it will be imported from Europe. According to our […]

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Ford-Focus-RS-2-450x309

Fans of fast Fords will be glad to know that our sources at the Blue Oval have confirmed that the Ford Focus RS is on its way for a 2016 debut. It will be (relatively) affordable, provide a measurable performance boost above a Focus ST, and it will be imported from Europe.

According to our source, the 2.3L Focus RS will be equipped with all-wheel drive and be priced a couple of thousand dollars higher than a loaded Ford Focus ST3. But getting your hands on one will be tough.

The Focus RS will have to be imported from Europe, since it apparently won’t fit down the production line at the Michigan Assembly Plant that builds our Focus. This means a very limited run of cars, serving as a halo car for those who want something more rally-inspired than a Mustang.

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Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT, Chrysler 300 SRT Get Stay Of Execution http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/jeep-grand-cherokee-srt-chrysler-300-srt-get-stay-execution/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/jeep-grand-cherokee-srt-chrysler-300-srt-get-stay-execution/#comments Mon, 20 Oct 2014 11:27:33 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=933858 Despite an effort to consolidate SRT vehicles under the Dodge brand, the Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT will stick around for the immediate future. Automotive News is reporting that dealers can order an SRT version of the Grand Cherokee for the 2015 model year. Beyond that, the vehicle will likely be renamed the “Trackhawk”. And while […]

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DSC_2383-450x274

Despite an effort to consolidate SRT vehicles under the Dodge brand, the Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT will stick around for the immediate future.

Automotive News is reporting that dealers can order an SRT version of the Grand Cherokee for the 2015 model year. Beyond that, the vehicle will likely be renamed the “Trackhawk”.

And while the Chrysler 300 SRT is slated to be axed in North America, right-hand drive prototypes have been spied undergoing testing, suggesting the vehicle will live on for export markets. Australia is  SRT’s biggest global market outside the United States, and with the death of the Holden Commodore and Ford Falcon, the 300 SRT will be the last rear drive V8 muscle sedan available in Australia.

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Koesters: Ford May Build PHEV For Europe Should Demand Rise http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/koesters-ford-may-build-phev-europe-demand-rise/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/koesters-ford-may-build-phev-europe-demand-rise/#comments Mon, 20 Oct 2014 11:00:09 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=933746 While U.S. consumers can opt for a PHEV version of the Fusion or C-Max, European customers have had to look elsewhere. This could change soon, however. Automotive News reports Ford is “actively considering” bringing over a PHEV to go up against offerings from Volkswagen, Mitsubishi, Toyota and Volvo, according to vehicle line director for large […]

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2015 Ford C-Max Energi

While U.S. consumers can opt for a PHEV version of the Fusion or C-Max, European customers have had to look elsewhere.

This could change soon, however.

Automotive News reports Ford is “actively considering” bringing over a PHEV to go up against offerings from Volkswagen, Mitsubishi, Toyota and Volvo, according to vehicle line director for large cars in Europe, Uli Koesters.

The reason the Blue Oval hadn’t planned on playing the game? Low demand in Europe for PHEVs overall. Koesters could immediately bring a PHEV to market, such as one based upon the Fusion’s European cousin, the Mondeo, but only if the interest is there:

I believe the plug-in take-up in Europe is not quite as ready as some people would like to think, but it is clearly a technology that can do a lot better at significantly reducing fuel consumption and that is why we are actively looking at it.

At the moment, the most popular PHEV is the Mitsubishi Outlander, with 8,953 units sold in H1 2014. Volvo, meanwhile, sold the fewest PHEVs in the same period, moving only 3,233 V60s.

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GM General Counsel Retiring Early 2015 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/gm-general-counsel-retiring-early-2015/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/gm-general-counsel-retiring-early-2015/#comments Mon, 20 Oct 2014 10:00:33 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=933690 Come next year, General Motors will have a new general counsel, as Michael Millikin has decided to call it a day. Millikin had come under fire as recently as this summer, when Congress took CEO Mary Barra to task for not firing him for his part of the February 2014 ignition switch recall, especially when […]

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GM Senior Vice President and General Counsel Michael P. Millikin

Come next year, General Motors will have a new general counsel, as Michael Millikin has decided to call it a day.

Millikin had come under fire as recently as this summer, when Congress took CEO Mary Barra to task for not firing him for his part of the February 2014 ignition switch recall, especially when five company lawyers under him were given the axe — a result of the publication of the Valukas report — but not he. Barra had this to say about him:

Mike has had a tremendous career, spanning more than 40 years, with the vast majority of it at GM. He has led global legal teams through incredibly complex transactions, been a trusted and respected confidant to senior management, and even led the company’s global business response team following the tragedy of 9/11.

Millikin served as GM’s general counsel since 2009, and has been with the automaker since 1977, when he was brought in from his previous role as an assistant attorney in the U.S. District Attorney’s Office in Detroit. He will remain in his position until the transition period for the new GC is complete.

GM has already begun an external search for his replacement.

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Cain’s Segments: Euro Sports Cars In September 2014 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/cains-segments-euro-sports-cars-september-2014/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/cains-segments-euro-sports-cars-september-2014/#comments Sun, 19 Oct 2014 11:58:25 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=930490 The Jaguar F-Type continues to be the car of the moment as coupes become a more common sight and as the car continues to be an absolutely essential part of the Jaguar lineup. September sales of the F-Type jumped 91% compared with September of last year, which still stands as Jaguar USA’s second-lowest-volume full month. […]

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2013boxsterThe Jaguar F-Type continues to be the car of the moment as coupes become a more common sight and as the car continues to be an absolutely essential part of the Jaguar lineup. September sales of the F-Type jumped 91% compared with September of last year, which still stands as Jaguar USA’s second-lowest-volume full month. F-Type sales peaked at 501 units in July of this year and have, on four other occasions, topped 400 units.

400? That’s a figure untouched by BMW’s Z4 since July 2011, more than three years ago. Year-over-year, Z4 sales actually increased in September, rising by seven units, falling 9% (or 17 units) compared with September 2012. These aren’t cars one judges on a moment’s figures, however, and certainly not in early autumn.

On the other hand, even taking a broader time period into account, the Z4 is wildly less popular than it once was. BMW USA reported sales of more than 20,000 units in 2003 and averaged 11,520 annually between 2004 and 2007. Sales have declined in three consecutive years, falling to 2480 units in 2013. 2014 will likely make it four consecutive years, as BMW’s pace currently makes 2100 sales unlikely.

The disease is wreaking havoc on the sales figures of Z4 rivals, too. Admittedly, the Audi TT is now an old car that’s about to be replaced by the third-gen model. But do you really think the next TT can average 7500 annual sales in the United States as the TT did between 2002 and 2004? Audi sold 4355 TTs in 2007, 4486 in 2008, and then averaged fewer than 2200 between 2011 and 2013.

Car
Sept.
2014
Sept.
2013
%
Change
9 mos.
2014
9 mos.
2013
%
Change
Audi TT
42 178 -76.4% 1,098 1,530 -28.2%
BMW Z4
170 163 4.3% 1,617 1,953 -17.2%
Jaguar F-Type
329 172 91.3% 2,945 1,490 97.7%
Mercedes-Benz SLK
489 404 21.0% 3,595 3,569 0.7%
Porsche Boxster
275 302 -8.9% 3,024 3,759 -19.6%
Porsche Cayman
245 311 -21.2% 2,568 2,431 5.6%
Total
1,550 
1,530  1.3%  14,847  14,732  0.8%

 

What of the SLK-Class Benz? It’s a top seller, and SLK sales have improved in 2014. But it’s still a car that sells half as often now as it did a decade ago. Mercedes-Benz USA averaged 7866 SLK sales per year between 2002 and 2008 but likely won’t sell 5000 this year.

Back to the present, Boxster and Cayman sales decreased by 93 units in September and are down 10% this year as a pair. Although the SLK outsells the Boxster and the F-Type outsells the Cayman, the two nameplates combined achieve numbers far in excess of both the SLK’s and F-Type’s: 5592 so far this year.

Not lost in these numbers are higher-priced coupes and roadsters which sell in greater numbers. Mercedes-Benz SL-Class sales are down 33% this year, but at 3758 units (and 584 in September), it’s slightly more popular than the smaller SLK. The 911, of course, may be the more direct F-Type rival from Porsche: 911 sales are up 3% to 7758 in 2014, more than the Boxster, Cayman, and Z4 combined.

Then there’s Detroit’s finest, the Chevrolet Corvette. In this first full year for the C7, U.S. Corvette sales have more than tripled to 25,950 sales through nine months.

Timothy Cain is the founder of GoodCarBadCar.net, which obsesses over the free and frequent publication of U.S. and Canadian auto sales figures.

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Coast to Coast 2014: Everything Is Bigger In Texas http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/coast-coast-2014-everything-bigger-texas/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/coast-coast-2014-everything-bigger-texas/#comments Sat, 18 Oct 2014 15:56:30 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=933322 Ram 2500 Long Horn in Fort Worth – Texas You can check out all the Coast to Coast reports as they are published here The Coast to Coast reports are back, and after New Orleans we now land in Texas, literally the land of pickups trucks. This time Albert, my Ram 1500 ecoDiesel feeling now […]

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1. Ram 2500 Long Horn Fort WorthRam 2500 Long Horn in Fort Worth – Texas

You can check out all the Coast to Coast reports as they are published here

The Coast to Coast reports are back, and after New Orleans we now land in Texas, literally the land of pickups trucks. This time Albert, my Ram 1500 ecoDiesel feeling now absolutely at home, took me to Houston, Austin, Dallas and Fort Worth before heading North to Oklahoma City. Texas makes it look like the rest of America I have visited so far wasn’t really trying. It may sound cliché, but everything is bigger in Texas. My impressions as well as official sales data courtesy of JATO are below.

New York Oklahoma CityUSA Coast to Coast trip so far. Map courtesy of Google Maps.

First a bit of trivia about Texas, one of the most symbolic States of the United States. The name Texas is derived from the word “tejas” which means “friends” or “allies” in Caddo language. This term was used by the Spanish themselves when they controlled the area to describe both the region and the Caddo people, a confederacy of several Southeastern Native American tribes who inhabited what is now East Texas, Northern Louisiana, southern Arkansas and Oklahoma. Today the Caddo Nation of Oklahoma is a single federally recognised tribe.

2. GMC Sierra DallasGMC Sierra in Dallas, Texas

At 26.4 million inhabitants, Texas is the second most populous State in the U.S. after California, and would feature at #47 worldwide if it was an independent country at exactly the same figure as Afghanistan and in between such nations as Saudi Arabia (30.8 million) and Australia (23.6 million). It is the second largest State after Alaska at 268.600 sq miles (or 696.241 km2), larger than France. Main cities are Houston (2.2 million inhabitants) and San Antonio (1.4 million) with the largest metropolitan area being the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex at 6.4 million souls and its capital being Austin at 885,400 inhabitants.

3. Toyota Tundra DallasToyota Tundra in Dallas, Texas

Texas has had a tumultuous history, being successively ruled by various nations: Spain, France then Mexico until 1836 when Texas became an independent Republic, before joining the U.S. as the 28th state in 1845. Texas is also called the Lone Star State, and its flag features a single star, a reference to its former status of a independent republic and as a reminder of the state’s struggle for independence from Mexico. Now. Trivia is out of the way, let’s get down to business.

4. Albert Texas State lineAlbert posing next to the Louisiana/Texas State line

And first things first, a few reports ago I said “I still am yet to spot a true American lunatic driving frankly dangerously, and I have found American highways one of the most relaxing and predictable driving experiences of my life.” That was in South Carolina. Well. I am now eating my words as everything changes the minute you cross the Texas State line. Lunatic drivers are more frequent than non-, unpredictable lane changes are the norm and speed limits are a long lost memory. To my advantage, pickup trucks rule the highways and ‘standard’ cars have no issues getting out of the way as soon as I get too close, not wanting to break my cruise control. So far so good.

5. Ford F150 Dallas 3Ford F150 in Dallas, Texas. Albert looks tiny next to it!

I started this article by saying Texas made me feel like the rest of America I had seen so far wasn’t really trying. Example: the huge highways around Houston. The I10 that circles the city at times becomes a 7 lane-highway. I simply had not seen such a thing at any time before and especially not in Los Angeles where I’ve been a few times (anyone care to correct this?), however this may be linked to the scarceness of public transport in Houston. Most interestingly, far from being an over-zealously built and unnecessarily grandiose undertaking, the 7 lanes were put to good use on a Saturday night at 9pm, each one filled with a regular flow of cars driving at speed limit or more. Impressive.

Bigger highways, but also bigger car dealerships. I drove past the largest dealership I’ve seen so far on the trip on the I10 a few miles West of Houston: Don McGill Toyota of Houston. Their website lists an inventory of 1.500 cars on site. Although I didn’t drive past it, It’s also worth noting the Fred Haase Toyota World dealership on the I45 North of Houston: the #1 Tundra dealer in the world and #1 volume dealer in Texas overall, with 2.860 vehicles on inventory right now. While huge, these are however not the largest dealerships in the country: the crown goes to Longo Toyota near Pasadena in California which is simply the largest car dealership in the world. No less. 15.000 vehicles sold a year, 50 acres, 500 employees, 30 languages and dialects spoken and complete with Subway restaurant and Starbucks café on site… It’s a different planet. But we digress…

6. Pickups DallasPickup trucks and motels. Now we truly are in America.

Texas is the kingdom of pickup trucks. Proof: according to Polk, pickup sales in the state were 3 times that of the #2 pickup market (California), and Texas accounts for 1 in 6 full-sized pickups sold nationally, whereas it holds only 8% of the national population. Even more impressive: the Houston metro area alone would rank #5 among pickup markets if it were a separate state. Dallas would be #7, as more pickups are sold just in the Dallas and Houston areas combined than in any other U.S. state, including No. 2 California. And more: even excluding both Dallas and Houston, Texas would still be the No. 1 pick-up state in the country!

6b Pickups Fort WorthPassenger cars are becoming rarer and rarer. In Fort Worth, Texas.

As a result, pickup truck manufacturers obviously pay particular attention to the Texan market, and most have special editions named in reference to this state: Ram has the LongHorn, Ford has the F-Series Texas Edition, Chevrolet has the Silverado… Texas Edition also while Toyota has the Tundra 1794 Edition named for the ranch, founded in 1794, upon which the truck’s assembly plant is located in San Antonio. At the State Fair of Texas in Dallas late last month, Toyota also unveiled a Tundra Bass Pro-Shop Offroad Edition available only to customers in the Gulf states region. Interestingly, only Toyota manufactures its full-size pickup truck locally in Texas and has recently relocated its headquarters from California to the Lone Star state. Last year at the launch of the new generations Chevy Silverado/GMC Sierra, Automotive News noted that General Motors was piping as much as half of their initial national supply of 2014 pickups to Texas… Partly helped by their good health here, national sales of full-size pickup trucks hit 2 million units in 2013 and for the first time since 2007.

11. Ford F250 Fort WorthFord F250 in Fort Worth, Texas. The Ford F250 is the #5 best-seller in Texas.

But what are the best-selling vehicles in Texas overall?

Pos Model FY2013
1 Ford F-150 96,663
2 Chevrolet Silverado 78,047
3 Ram Pickup 67,378
4 Toyota Camry 36,953
5 Ford F-250 33,305

Source: JATO

Ford and Chevrolet take advantage of their extensive rural dealer network to take the top two spots with the F-150 just below 100,000 units, by far its best state score in the country, and the Silverado at almost 80,000. Seeing 3 or 4 current generation F-150 in a row is not uncommon on Texan highways. The Ram Pickup rounds up the podium at 67,000 and surprisingly, unlike Louisiana, the Top 4 is not 100% composed of pickup trucks with the Toyota Camry managing to point its much smaller bonnet in 4th position – albeit with just a little more than half the sales of the Ram. Tellingly, the Ford F-250 Super Duty makes its very first appearance in any State’s Top 5 so far thanks to a mammoth 33,305 sales in Texas. Interestingly, Toyota doesn’t place the Tundra inside the Top 5.

7. Chevrolet Impala DallasChevrolet Impala in Dallas, Texas

Thorough observation of the traffic on Texan highways also reveals the following: there are more Ford Edge and Cadillac XTS here than anywhere before during this trip, the new generation Chrysler 200 and Chevrolet Impala are back on the roads for the first time since Memphis, and the Toyota Tundra is strong but even though it is produced locally, it was more frequent in Northern Virginia or Western Louisiana. Austin struck me as a hipster chic town with more Lexus, Infiniti, Toyota Prius and Nissan Leaf, less pickup trucks and the strongest heritage of previous generation Toyota Corolla so far in the trip. The Nissan Altima and Honda Accord should top the sales charts there.

10. Chrysler 200 Dallas with Kennedy detailsChrysler 200 in Dallas, Texas

The Ford F150 clearly dominates the Dallas vehicle landscape, potentially holding up to 10% market share there and way above the Chevrolet Silverado, more so than Texas-wide. The base version with plastic bumpers (playing in the same sandpit as my Ram “Albert” 1500 Tradesman) is the Hero of the state. A truckload of them all through Texas and in Dallas in particular, pun intended. There were almost no F250 and F350 in town, only outside on working sites (makes sense) and the new generation Chrysler 200 was stronger again in Dallas. As whole, both the Nissan Armada and Titan are a notch stronger in Texas than they are in the rest of the states I visited so far.

Highlights of the trip in the Lone Star state were the Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza in Dallas (see above), another very thorough museum this time about JFK’s assassination, and Fort Worth, which you might say is touristic yet oh so reassuringly and symbolically Texan. I bought a cowboy hat and belt. I had to. When in Texas… Meanwhile Albert, my valiant Ram 1500 Tradesman truck with ecoDiesel, has now crossed the 3,000 miles milestone in this trip, standing at 3,144 miles (5,069 km) by the time I arrived in Dallas. Fuel economy now stands at 26.4 mpg, still above the 24 average advertised by Ram for city/highway. Very happy with that one.

Next stop: Oklahoma City.

 8. Chevrolet CK Series Fort WorthChevrolet CK Series in Fort Worth, Texas

Ford F150 DallasFord Mustang and F150 in Dallas, Texas

9. Chevrolet Silverado Fort WorthChevrolet Silverado in Fort Worth, Texas

12. Dodge Durango Fort WorthDodge Durango in Fort Worth, Texas

Fort Worth street scene 1Fort Worth street scene

Hyundai Elantra GT DallasHyundai Elantra GT in Dallas, Texas

Nissan Altima TexasNissan Altima near Austin, Texas

Ram 2500 Fort WorthRam Pickup in Fort Worth, Texas

Toyota Camry Fort Worth 2Toyota Camry in Fort Worth, Texas

Ford Explorer Fort Worth 2Ford Explorer in Fort Worth, Texas

Fort Worth ColiseumFort Worth Coliseum

Toyota Tundra Fort WorthToyota Tundra in Fort Worth, Texas

Ford F150 Dallas 2Ford F150 in Dallas, Texas

Toyota Corolla DallasToyota Corolla in Dallas, Texas

Ford F250 Fort Worth 2Ford F250 in Fort Worth, Texas

Fort Worth street scene 2Fort Worth street scene

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Chart Of The Day: The 200 And A Decade Of Chrysler Group Midsize Car Sales http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/chart-day-200-decade-chrysler-group-midsize-car-sales/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/chart-day-200-decade-chrysler-group-midsize-car-sales/#comments Sat, 18 Oct 2014 11:41:16 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=930402 Through the first nine months of 2014, sales of the Chrysler 200 are down 27%. That’s to be expected, as the 200 was transitioning from Sebring-based (but Pentastar-powered!) fleet favourite to sleeker 2015 200 form. Granted, Toyota is transitioning from Camry to refreshed Camry and sales are up 5% this year, but that’s a somewhat […]

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003-2015-chrysler-200-leak-1Through the first nine months of 2014, sales of the Chrysler 200 are down 27%. That’s to be expected, as the 200 was transitioning from Sebring-based (but Pentastar-powered!) fleet favourite to sleeker 2015 200 form. Granted, Toyota is transitioning from Camry to refreshed Camry and sales are up 5% this year, but that’s a somewhat invalid comparison for another day. Dodge Avenger volume is down 37% to 49,363 units in 2014, but again, this was an anticipated decline, as Chrysler Group has actually killed off the Avenger.

Jointly, the duo is down 31% to 124,505 units. For the third time, this is not a shocker. We expected a period of decreasing 200 volume, and we knew the Avenger’s drops were going to be severe.

Perhaps Fiat Chrysler Automobiles does not need the remaining, sibling-less 200 to sell in 200/Avenger-like fashion. But if we set aside the year-to-date numbers to look only at September’s results, we’ll certainly see that the new 200 is, in fact, not coming close to selling in 200/Avenger-like numbers. In fact, the 200 and remaining Avenger – 1677 were sold in September – aren’t selling like the 200 and Avenger did last year, either. While 200 sales jumped 15% in September, that was not enough to overcome the near disappearance of Avenger sales.

Chrysler Group midsize car sales chartThe pair was down 14% to 12672 units, a loss of 2010 units. Is that a concern if the new car has greater potential for profit generation? Not at all. But the discounts are already piling up on the 2015 200, with a $2500 cash allowance being just the starting point.

Of course, Chrysler Group midsize car sales fluctuate wildly, and we could yet see a surge by year’s end. The accompanying chart shows nine-month U.S. sales totals over the last nine years.

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Ownership Review: Porsche 911 GT3 (997 Vintage) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/ownership-review-porsche-911-gt3-997-1-vintage/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/ownership-review-porsche-911-gt3-997-1-vintage/#comments Fri, 17 Oct 2014 16:18:56 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=928346 The last time my friend Derek allowed me to write for TTAC, I narrated a brief test drive of a Porsche 911 GT3 from the 996 generation, a a car that provided an intense and immersive driving experience, but that presented a heinous proposition as a sole car / daily driver, even for a young, […]

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The last time my friend Derek allowed me to write for TTAC, I narrated a brief test drive of a Porsche 911 GT3 from the 996 generation, a a car that provided an intense and immersive driving experience, but that presented a heinous proposition as a sole car / daily driver, even for a young, single owner with a short commute in a sunny clime.  Ostensibly, I had driven the car because I was considering replacing my old 911 with something more livable / less cantankerous / more rapid / etc.  While that particular edition of the GT3 proved a poor match for my needs, I still resolved to join the 21st century by upgrading to a more modern car.

Springtime of 2014 represented a good opportunity to start shopping for a new conveyance, with several enticing and new or recently updated offerings both on the horizon and within my price range.  I considered several options – even several non-Porsches! – including the Alfa Romeo 4C, the all-new F8X family of the BMW M3/4, the C7 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray Z51, and the 981 Porsche Cayman GTS.  Those are all new cars, with full factory warranties.  I’d learned my lesson owning an old German sports car with no factory repair safety net.

As I window shopped for new cars I also perused the Autotrader website and came across an intriguing advertisement for a 997 GT3.  Since the car was introduced, I had intensely desired Porsche’s GT3 from the 997 family, and if Halicki’s Gone in 60 Seconds cult classic were improbably re-made to fit my biography, my “Eleanor” would be a 997 GT3.  Unfortunately, the GT3 that was introduced when I was in high school violated the one sacrosanct rule of this entire exercise – the car was old and out of warranty.  It also featured some frighteningly expensive components (new PCCB brake rotors would cost almost as much as I paid for the 993!).

However.  The car was local.  I knew the seller.  The price was below market.  The car was nicely optioned (blinged-out PCCB brakes, full leather, Xenon lights) and well-maintained, with a clean PPI, perfect DME over-rev report, and only 14,000 miles from new.

I called the owner and bought it over the phone for the full asking price, 100% sight unseen, in less than five minutes.  I broke all of the rules.  I did it for two reasons:  1 – I desired the GT3 moreso than any of the other options, and would have chosen a GT3 over any of them if finances were of no concern. 2 – The attractive entry price, coupled with the dynamics of the GT3 market mean that I’m unlikely to suffer any meaningful depreciation.  In fact, I’ve been using the car as my primary vehicle / daily driver now for six months and plan to continue doing so for another year or two before selling it for about what I paid, perhaps a bit more.

So what’s it like?

Driving Experience:

Engine:

The defining feature of every GT3 from the 996 and 997 generations – up to and including the 4.0 RS zenith of the series – is the race-derived engine that Porsche nerds refer to as the “Mezger” engine, so named for Porsche’s visionary engineer, Hans Mezger, who designed the very first 911 engine, and whose very last project for Porsche was the development of the turbocharged lump that powered the 911 GT1 prototype that triumphed at Le Mans in 1998.  That pedigreed block forms the basis for the production car engine, and in 997.1 GT3 guise it displaces 3.6 liters (100mm bore, 76.4mm stroke), producing 415 bhp and 300 lb-ft of torque.  Performance is produced courtesy of high revs (8,400 RPM redline) and high compression (12.0:1); peak power output comes at 7,600 RPM, with peak torque entering at a lofty 5,500 RPM.  While power delivery is, uh, peaky, the engine is sufficiently tractable and civilized at low RPMs.  I’ve enhanced the car with a bypass exhaust from NorCal Porsche tuner Sharkwerks (mine is serial number 639 – it’s rather popular among the small community of GT3 devotees) and forced the exhaust valves to remain open all the time in order to drop 20 pounds from the rear, create an exceedingly antisocial racket and, most importantly, paint a big grin on my face every time I drive the car.

Click here to view the embedded video.

I cannot overstate the engine’s central role in my enjoyment of the car; it is raw, emotive, immediately responsive, and a key driver of value:  With rare exception, all Porsches ever made with a Mezger engine are appreciating or holding value, whereas those without an engine connected to Hans are depreciating.  Furthermore, the factory still uses the admittedly outdated warhorse engine in its 911-based race cars.  I’ve gone so far as to reference the engine’s provenance with an obnoxious vanity plate:

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Drivetrain:

The marvelous engine mates to a close ratio 6-speed manual that features shockingly short throws and a stiff clutch.  When cold or just trundling around town it can be balky and reluctant to engage properly, but the heavy control efforts begin to make sense when driving spiritedly, the intended use for which the entire car is optimized.  Perfectly rev-matched downshifts are a satisfying delight, although the plastic components in the stock lever and linkage feel slightly insubstantial – one of the GT3’s few letdowns as a tool for Freude am Fahren, to borrow a phrase from Porsche’s countrymen in Bavaria.  A dual mass flywheel mates to the aforementioned weighty clutch, whereas the RennSport brethren of the “base” GT3 received the single mass lightweight flywheel.  I have a factory lightweight flywheel in my 993, and I’d love to have the same part in the GT3, but I’d rather have the circa $5,000 associated cost in my pocket.

Suspension and Ride:

The 997 GT3 represented an all-over softening of the preceding generation’s rough edges, coupled with nicer styling – both inside and out – and a bit more grunt. The biggest changes occurred in the car’s suspension, as evidenced in the 997 version’s ride and handling balance. As the first generation of the GT3 to receive PASM – Porsche Adaptive Suspension Management – the contemporary marketing materials and reviews harped on the new, allegedly comfort-oriented suspension setup. The GT3’s PASM setup has two modes, one intended for street usage and the other, harder setting intended for track work. In reality, the “softer” setting is still rather stiff and has a tendency to porpoise over surface imperfections at a variety of speeds while road driving. The stiffer setting has only one legitimate use: illustrating to complaining passengers that the softer setting should be appreciated. The stiffer PASM setting doesn’t bother me in terms of ride quality per se, but it does irk me that that the front tires spend less time in touch with the road than they ought to over anything but perfect pavement. For example, let’s say you perform a panic stop on slightly undulating tarmc – the front wheels will skip over the bumps in the pavement as ABS pulsates away; it’s rather disconcerting. I’ve ridden in and driven all generations of the GT3 sold in North America, and the progressive leap in compliance over time is the most impressive enhancement in my observation. The facelifted 997.2 GT3 brought along mild, evolutionary PASM revisions, whereas the all-new 991 GT3 rides like a Cadillac in comparison to its forebears.

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Handling and Steering:

Despite my niggling complaints regarding suboptimal PASM tuning, I am an avowed fan of the car’s handling and steering feel. Although other cars doubtless offer more outright grip or fractionally higher slalom average speeds, the GT3 dutifully produces the expected objective figures while providing a fulsome stream of involving feedback to the driver. Perhaps you’re driving on a familiar two-lane road when you encounter a mild sheen of rain on the road; you’ll feel it. Perhaps you’re approaching “the limit” around a sweeper and wonder whether you have a bit more grip in reserve; you’ll feel it through the steering wheel and your posterior, and you’ll know. After driving the car for awhile – I’ve put 3,500 miles on mine in 6 months – I’ve gotten used to the chassis’s talents, but time spent driving other cars, including my older 911, brings things into sharp relief once more.

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Brakes:

As mentioned, my car came equipped with the optional PCCB – Porsche Ceramic Composite Brakes – setup. Whoever specced my car way back when elected to splurge $8,840 for this option; for that rather immodest sum, they received the following: Massive brake discs (15.0″ front, 13.8″ rear) replete with eye-catching yellow calipers, a circa 40 lb. reduction in unsprung weight, fade-free braking performance, and alleged dust-free operation (untrue). Now, on the other side of the ledger, a few reasons to reconsider PCCBs: Replacing the rotors with OEM parts will run you well over $20,000 (they’re a lifetime part in terms of wear, but, say, running into the gravel trap beyond Road Atlanta’s turn 10A could result in scratching the rotors, necessitating replacement); pads aren’t cheap either (I have a replacement coming soon, it’ll be four figures), and you have to replace them at about 50% life if you’d like to protect your ceramic rotors. Other mitigating factors: PCCBs offer absolutely no advantage versus the standard “Big Red” brakes in terms of stopping distance or pedal feel, and they sometimes squeal around town.

That said, the brakes work impressively, whether you’re executing a full panic stop as an impromptu Heimlich maneuver to help your choking neighbor or wiping off a quick 50 MPH on a back road cruise. Despite the considerable expense, I wouldn’t consider buying another GT3 without ceramics.

Summary Performance Specs:

For the benefit of internet bench racers, I’ve borrowed some performance numbers from the pros in Ann Arbor.

Acceleration:  0-60 in 4.0 seconds; quarter mile in 12.4 seconds at 116 MPH

Roadholding: 0.99g

Braking: 70-0 in 149 feet

Ownership Experience:

Now for the practical considerations and downsides of GT3 ownership.

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Ground Clearance:

The front ground clearance for the car is a scant 3.8 inches.  Not only is the car rather low, but the front overhang is substantial.  Imagine you’re driving around with Jay Leno’s chin skimming along the ground in front of you, under a Damoclean multi-thousand dollar penalty if you hit a speed bump at anything above walking pace!  Exciting.  At first this was the most intimidating aspect of driving the car, as pulling into any parking lot involved an exciting game of wondering “Will I or won’t I scrape the front of my new toy?!?”  I’m already on my second front splitter (mercifully a sacrificial plastic piece that only costs a few hundred dollars), but I’ve learned to proceed with caution and take wide approach and departure angles whenever possible.  My car does not have the nose lift feature that Porsche offered on later GT3s, but I can now live without it, successfully navigating parking decks and gas stations with relative ease.

Fuel Economy and Range:

Speaking of gas stations…  The car makes numerous sacrifices at the altar of motorsports chic, but the small capacity fuel tank – just over 10 gallons – and laughable economy conspire to send me to my local Chevron (premium fuel only, of course) every 130 miles or so.  I can occasionally eke out a bit more range on highway hauls, but my average plummets when I go on pleasure drives on back roads, where I’ve burned a tank in less than 100 miles on several occasions.

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Interior:

Despite an MSRP well above $120,000, the GT3’s interior is decidedly no-frills.   The important aspects are executed with aplomb: terrific driving position and ergonomics, touch points swathed in purposeful, tactile Alcantara (ie, synthetic suede) and excellent visibility despite the surfboard / ping pong table out back.  The remainder of the interior, however, leaves a bit to be desired, at least for sybarites seeking sumptuous solace; the seats adjust manually, there is no navigation system, and the puny stereo – featuring only a single disc CD changer, people who own smartphones or MP3 players are out of luck! – is comprehensively overpowered by tire, wind, and engine noise, as the GT3  eschews essentially all sound deadening to pare back mass.  Moreover, the entire car is screwed together so tightly and rides so stiffly that any foreign object in the interior, even a single penny in the console cubby, will induce a maddening vibration / rattle.  As if that weren’t enough, the car makes its own vibrations due to harmonics at about 90 MPH, and they’re sufficiently acute that the view out the rear view mirror is distorted.

Insurance:

Although the car is seven years old now, it’s still fairly valuable and fairly high performance.  I’m 25 and possess a clean driving record (thank you Michael Valentine!), but insurance is still somewhat expensive.  I pay just under $500 per month to insure both the GT3 and 993 through a quality carrier (read: not an insurer that advertises on television).

Summary:

My GT3 is gloriously excessive, embarrassingly wasteful, astonishingly impractical, and supremely indulgent, a pur sang racer diverted from the race track to a relatively quiet, domesticated life at the eleventh hour.

Yet I endure these first world hardships with a smile, because I adore its uncompromising singularity of ideal and purpose.

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David Walton grew up in the North Georgia mountains before moving to Virginia to study Economics, Classics, and Natural Light at Washington and Lee University. Post-graduation, he returned to his home state to work in the financial services industry in Atlanta.  A lifelong automotive enthusiast, particular interests include (old) Porsches and sports car racing.

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