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By on July 2, 2009

Consumers have a hard enough time keeping all the brands and nameplates in the US market straight; trying to keep track of the myriad suppliers that make up the bulk of the industry is nearly impossible. Even here on TTAC, our well-informed commentariat often throws up its hands at the first sign of supplier coverage. But the fortunes of suppliers to US auto firms have been fading for years now, as Detroit’s misery slides downhill through the various tiers of suppliers. And despite repeated calls for a supplier bailout (and their use as OEM bailout bait), aid has been either misappropriated or rejected. And the bankruptcies show no signs of slowing.

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By on July 2, 2009

By on July 2, 2009

There are some seriously mixed messages coming out of the NHTSA today, which perfectly illustrate what I like to call the tyranny of safety. On the one hand, the NHTSA announced today that overall traffic fatalities dropped by nearly ten percent in 2008, hitting the lowest levels per vehicle mile traveled since 1961. Estimates for the first quarter of 2009 show the high-single digit downward trend continuing into this year. In 2008, the NHTSA logged 1.27 fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles traveled. Which, based on the number of cars and the shoddy quality of driving one encounters in this country (sorry, it’s true), is a remarkable statistic. But, for safety nuts like SecTrans Ray LaHood, it’s not enough. “While the number of highway deaths in America has decreased, we still have a long way to go,” he tells his press release. And how are we going to go about protecting Americans from the lowest fatality rates since JFK was elected and the Beatles were still playing the Cavern? Gizmos, baby, gizmos.

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By on July 2, 2009

By on July 2, 2009

The way it looks, China will severely trounce the USA as the world’s largest auto market in 2009. From January to June, Americans bought 4.8m units, a drop of 35.1 percent. China had sold more a month earlier.

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By on July 2, 2009

Because it wants to, Buick is headed upmarket. Because it has to, Cadillac is headed downmarket. Who wins? Not GM. An Epsilon II, FWD/AWD Cadillac isn’t going to have the phrase “standard of the world” tripping off anyone’s tongue. And since GM exists at the pleasure of the politicians, it doesn’t seem likely that Cadillac will ever get around to making the huge investments in opulence that it would need to regain its former glory. And besides an aging CTS and a “2005 called and wants its SUV back” Escalade, what is Cadillac again? Some days it’s a good day to die. Some days it’s a good day to record a podcast.

By on July 2, 2009

Just a quick reminder that TTAC is on Twitter. I’ve neglected the service for a while, but not anymore. I’m tweeting every new post with a blast of prose poetry and a shortened url, so you can wonder WTF I’m on about and click through. Of course, we’re still available as an RSS feed. Our iTunes feed is back; but you’ll have to subscribe again to get automatic updates. (Apple Music Store > search “truth about cars” > subscribe ) Meanwhile, Ye Olde New Content Notification Alerts—the steam-driven heads-up email system for new reviews and rants—is dead. When our main man Marshall tried to resurrect the plug-in, it unplugged the entire site. The good news: VerticalScope has scheduled TTAC for a site redesign in the dog days of August. Like any good carmaker, we’ll make sure the new site offers The Best and Brightest more and better features without overcomplicating basic functionality. Until then, as always, thanks for putting food on our table.

By on July 2, 2009

As evolutionary as the changes to Toyota’s third-generation Prius may seem on the surface, beneath the familiar sheetmetal lurks enough new technology to justify over 1,000 new patents. The Wall Street Journal reports that through three generations of the Prius, Toyota has generated over 2,000 patents on hybrid technology, half stemming from the latest generation alone. Toyota’s hybrid patent filing nearly doubles the number filed by Honda, its closest hybrid competitor. And the WSJ casts this “thicket of patents” as Toyota tightening its stranglehold on the hybrid market.

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By on July 2, 2009

Sent to us by ivyinvestor:

My wife and I currently have a 2006 Acura TSX, auto. We need another car, but our budget is $5000, tops, as we don’t want a payment. We’ve never considered a used car for any purchase, and although I know the various means we could use to go about checking it out, I develop neverending lists of queries about every aspect of the car in question to the point that some sellers stop answering. After all, the depreciation’s been factored in, but what about maintenance, treatment, and care? I know not all the questions can be answered, but we still want something bred from reliable, if not “amazing to drive”, roots. In the Boston area, it seems our best options are 1998-2002 Civics, maybe some older Accords, and a few Mazdas, all with 125,000+ miles. Does this appear to be in the right ballpark? Reliability is important, as is fun, though we realize the latter might need to be sacrificed in this price range. (Recent example: 2000 Civic EX coupe, standard, 155k miles, timing belt at 100k, brakes at 130k, probably needs rear tires, original clutch: $3800, local.)

By on July 2, 2009

Derm 81 sent us this report:

I took this shot from the GM Tech Center the other day. I couldn’t get more than one photo because the engineer got pissed that I was snapping pictures. It is a Cadillac with right hand steering. What was odd was that it had several “ports” which looked like extra gas tank openings, which were in the same location as the plug/outlet on the the Volt. You can see the reflection of my goofy-assed PT on the Caddy.You cant see it in the picture BUT there was this huge “unit” or black box on the back seat. Didn’t look as if there even was a rear seat bench. Battery pack? Standard testing device?

By on July 2, 2009

Once upon a time, way back in 1959, a company called Datsun imported a funny-looking pickup truck with a small bed and tiny engine, giving birth to the compact pickup market in the US. After a slow start, the market grew, as did the competition. The 70s brought onslaughts from Isuzu, Mazda, Mitsubishi, and even VW. After the dust settled, the small truck market in the US belongs basically to the Toyota Tacoma, Ford Ranger, Chevy/GMC Colorado/Canyon (for now, anyway) and Nissan Frontier—the direct descendant of the Datsun that started it all. Fifty years later, what hath Nissan wrought?

One thing they’ve wrought is a BIG truck. Even though the EPA classifies the Frontier Crew Cab as a small truck, it’s not. It sits on a 125.9″ wheelbase and at 205.5” is 3.5” longer than a 2009 Tahoe. It’s a half foot narrower, though, so don’t even think about squeezing a third person into the park-bench-like rear seat. Stretching to add that second row of seats gives it a bit of a dachshund look when viewed from the side.

The interior is refreshingly simple and there’s no doubt you’re in a truck. The windows, door locks and mirrors are electric, but the seats and steering wheel adjust via knobs and levers. The radio is an average AM/FM unit with CD player but no MP3 connection. Every surface looks and feels durable, as it they should in a utility vehicle. The instrument panel is a  jigsaw puzzle, though. I counted sixteen different plastic parts wedged together to span the space between the doors below the windshield. And that didn’t include the parts in the instrument cluster or the various black plugs that proclaim there were options you didn’t opt for.

The front seats offer little in the way of lateral support. As you’re not likely to be autocrossing the thing, just sit back and relax. The chairs are just fine for the run to the big box store or a trip to the lake with the Jet-Ski. The back seats are a different matter. The seatback is vertical and the bottom is horizontal and close to the floor.

There’s no way I’d ever consider subjecting someone I love to the torture of sitting back there. Why spend the extra money for a crew cab pickup with a cab too small for your crew? Using the extra space for cargo doesn’t work too well either. The seat backs fold down, but they have a huge gap at the rear where small objects disappear. The seat bottoms fold up but that space is eaten up by oddly-shaped shallow cargo bins.

Face it: the only real reason to buy a pickup truck is the cargo box out back. While some “small” crew cab trucks give you all of four feet for your stuff, the Frontier has a six-footer. And, yes, when it comes to pickup truck beds, size matters. You can fit big-boy-sized toys in this one with the tailgate shut and actually use it to haul the kind of stuff you’d pick up at the home improvement store. The tailgate shuts with a satisfying “chunk” that sounds better than the doors in the average car.

Our test truck came with “SE Value Truck Package” which included a sliding bed divider. It slides in tracks on either side of the bed but when it’s in the front- or rearmost position it eats up at least six inches of the bed’s length. It carries a sticker that proclaims “WARNING This is not designed as a cargo retention device.” If that’s the case, I don’t really understand what its purpose is.

The Frontier’s 4-liter V6 churns out 261 HP and 281 lb·ft of torque. I didn’t try towing anything, but it felt like there would be more than enough oomph to handle boats or utility trailers. The five-speed automatic transmission shifts smoothly and unobtrusively. The ride and handling are, well, truck-like. Even with the long wheelbase, the ride is a bit stiff over broken pavement. On the highway, though, it’s no worse than many economy cars.

The fuel economy is terrible; even a 5.3L V8-equipped Tahoe is more fuel efficient. The Heavy Chevy is rated at 15/21. The V6-equipped Frontier only manages 15/20. You don’t buy a truck for the fuel economy, but this kind of mileage from a “small” truck is ludicrous.

The Nissan Frontier comes as either an extended cab or crew cab version (the standard cab is no longer offered). Our tester stickered $25,805— a reasonable price for a crew cab pickup. As a truck, it does just fine. As a passenger car, the back seat and fuel mileage conspire to drive home the point that it IS a truck. And that’s just as it should be.

[Nissan provided the vehicle reviewed, insurance and a tank of gas.]

By on July 2, 2009

A 2008 Suzuki Forenza. After reading the owner reviews, it pained me to even think about buying the car. I found a 2008 S model on eBay for $6700 (incl. bogus fees). Only 7500 miles? What a deal! But for whom? Since this car was sub-par for a multitude of ‘too cheap for their own good’ owners, I deep-sixed it. That left on eBay a Kia Rio LX, a Chevy Aveo LT, a Ford Focus SE (with about 15k more miles), and the ringer: a 2008 Toyota Yaris. Prices/mileage were $7100/16k, $8000/21k, $8500/33k and, ahem, $10,700 with 12k. All automatics. All with power windows/locks. None with sunroofs or any other high end stuff. Just good solid A to B transportation with a lot of good owner feedback. On second thought, screw it. I don’t believe a tightwad would be happy with real world fuel economy in the mid-20s so I’m nixing the Aveo. Begone! As for the other three . . .

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By on July 2, 2009

New car registrations in Germany, Europe’s biggest auto market, went stratospheric by 40 percent in June. At record numbers, Germany’s Autofahrer junked their old cars, collected €2500 and bought a new one, says Reuters. This followed a May that also saw a 40 percent rise over the same month last year.

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By on July 2, 2009

TTAC commentator minion444 writes,

At the end of May, I bought my wife a new ’08 Mazda Miata. She was feeling left out, because I have my motorcycle and it was our 25th Wedding Anniversary. We took delivery on Sat. On Sunday, it was very overcast and saw that the nose (bumper) cover was touched up in the center. About a 1 foot square. The dealer called us on Monday morning bright and early to thank us and ask us how the we liked the car.

I told him we noticed the car was damaged and re-painted.  He said he had no knowledge of it and that he would check it out and told us to bring it in. The car was originally delivered in PA and I bought it from a NJ dealer. When we brought it in, he admitted that the car was touched up and told us he would repair it as new. He is in the process of painting the bumper for the second time now. The 1st time, the color was too dark.

Do, I have any legal remedy here? I bought a new car and expected a new car? Was he legally bound to disclose the original damage?

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By on July 2, 2009

For more pics of the new 2011 BMW 5-Series caught in the desert, jump on over to automotivetraveler.com.

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