In 1961, President John F. Kennedy said in a speech to a joint session of Congress: “I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to Earth.” On 21 July 1969, Neil Armstrong became the first man to set foot on the Moon. The Apollo 11 crew returned safely to Earth on 24 July. Three years later, the Moon had its last visitors. The Sea of Tranquility lives up to its name.
In last week’s State of the Union speech, President Barack Obama’s set an even more audacious goal. Read More >
In my Nissan Frontier Capsule Review, I briefly mentioned the fact that I’d had a Saab 9-3 prior to said Frontier. Well, as it turned out, I ended up having the Saab after the Frontier, as well. Before I could take possession of said little turbocharged hatchback for the second time and send it back to the lease company where it belonged, however, I had to beg, threaten, and — depending on your definition of the word — perhaps steal.
During the government’s bailout of General Motors, the UAW agreed to a number of concessions, including management’s ability to use “Innovative Labor Practices” in order to build a fuel-efficient subcompact car in the US. As a result, the 1,600 workers at the firm’s Lake Orion plant had a choice: the 800 most senior workers would return at the $28 “tier one” wage, while another 500 workers would be able to return only if they accepted a 50% pay cut, pushing them into the union’s “second tier” of wages. Workers forced into the tier two, which typically applies only to new hires, were not allowed to transfer to other Michigan plants, and could neither vote on the agreement, nor strike because of it. After all, the bailout’s green-tinged sales pitch meant that building a subcompact in the US was a politically necessary move, even if it went against every UAW principle… which is why it’s awfully ironic that the safety valve for this deteriorating situation is a factory building trucks. Read More >
I snapped this shot of an Austin Mini (technically a Morris 850) and a Buick Electra 225 parked side-by-side in an Alameda, California parking lot before I left the West Coast, and every time I look at it I wonder: would I rather have an early Mini or a Malaise Era Electra? I can’t decide! Read More >
Now that most of the large car companies have supplied their numbers, TTAC has compiled its annual table of the world’s largest automakers. In doing so, we have attempted to come as close as possible to the methodology used in the official OICA list, which will be published some time this summer. Here is the 2009 version as a reference. And here are TTAC’s Top Ten of 2010: Read More >
For countries up north, this was the end of the malaise and the beginning of party time. In Brazil, it was the decade of doom and gloom. Politically, the military regime was running out of steam. Gradual democratization was unavoidable. Culturally, the country exploded. Censorship, which had marked the 70s, disappeared. Playboy showed full frontal (female) nudity to grateful teenage boys and men. Brazilian rock came into its own. Economically, the country tried hard, but ran hard to stay in the same place. This decade is often referred to as the lost decade. Foreign debt was the overriding problem. The dollar became king. Inflation was reaching hyper mode. People didn’t have money. Smaller and smaller cars took a bigger and bigger piece of the sales pie. Read More >
The oft predicted collapse of the Chinese market does not seem to happen. GM is the canary in the Chinese coalmine, and January, the month before the Lunar New Year festivities, is a key selling month. So goes GM, so goes China, so goes January, so goes the year. This time, January was especially critical: Many had predicted that the cancellation of tax incentives for sub 1.6 liter cars, that went in effect on January 1, would have serious pull-forward repercussions. Not as far as GM is concerned. Read More >
Car enthusiasts have been apt to criticize SUVs as irrational because few owners ever take them off-road. But, by the same token, how many owners of high-performance sports cars drive them at anything approaching their full potential? Venturing beyond cars, how many owners of diver’s watches actually scuba dive? And how many dSLR cameras are being used just like a $99 point-and-shoot? Clearly people are psychologically attracted to high-performance objects, even if they won’t actually utilize the potential of these objects. This doesn’t mean that the objects themselves don’t make sense. And yet, during my week with a Lexus LX 570, I struggled to make this 5,995-pound, technology-packed, luxurious SUV make sense.