The Truth About Cars » america The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Tue, 15 Jul 2014 15:25:59 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars (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 » america Question Of The Day: America’s Finest Hour Fri, 04 Jul 2014 14:34:24 +0000 800px-FOB_DETROIT-NEW_CARS_ARE_LOADED_ONTO_RAILROAD_CARS_AT_LASHER_AND_I-75_-_NARA_-_549696

In honor of Independence Day, I’d like to pose a simple question to you all. What is America’s Finest Automotive Hour?

As many of you know, I have not lived that many years on this earth, and so I lack the context to properly look back upon America’s auto industry and judge for myself. A few things come to mind: the Ford Taurus, the Chrysler minivans and the LS1 V8 come to mind as beacons of innovation. The Ford Fiesta ST and Jeep Grand Cherokee stand out as “fun to drive” all-stars. I am constantly blown away by all three domestic pickup trucks, which I think represent the finest American-made vehicles at any price.

But I’m Canadian. And old enough to be your kid (in many cases). Tell us what you think stands out as a high point for the American automobile. The best answers submitted by the end of business will get highlighted in a separate post.

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Keystone Vote Looms Amid Iraq Implosion Mon, 16 Jun 2014 13:22:40 +0000 photo2-505x600

Global oil prices are on the rise as the crisis in Iraq contributes to market instability. Large chunks of Iraq’s oil production infrastructure have fallen under militant control, leading to a sharp drop in output. Meanwhile, Canadian officials are upset with the Obama administration’s handling of the Keystone pipeline. They contend that the inaction on Keystone is keeping millions of barrels of Alberta crude from reaching more profitable markets.

Bloomberg reports that market analysts are divided on how much the Iraq crisis will influence crude prices in the future. This isn’t particularly surprising, given the number of variables in that still-developing situation. However, all observers expect that the price will only go up. The price of Brent crude on the London exchange has already crested $113 a barrel as of June 13; this is the highest level since last September. In the United States, West Texas crude is near $107, also the highest price since the previous September. Most forecasters expect oil to reach around $120 a barrel by the fourth quarter, when rising demand will also drive up prices. Longtime oilman T. Boone Pickens told CNBC that a complete shutdown of Iraqi production could drive oil into the $150-200 range by destabilizing world markets.

Part of the problem is attributable to the OPEC oil cartel’s difficulties in increasing supply. Since the Libyan revolution, oil production in that key OPEC member has declined precipitously to barely 10% of previous output. Meanwhile, fluctuating production in Nigeria and other OPEC members has introduced more volatility into the supply and demand curve. A report issued by the International Energy Agency last week states that Iraq could provide up to 45% of all growth in global oil output through 2020. As militants from the hyper-violent Islamic State in Syria and Iraq (ISIS) group overrun ever-larger swaths of the country and curb down production, that future is looking cloudy.

The latest Iraq crisis comes just as negotiations surrounding the embattled Keystone XL pipeline are finally coming to a head. The U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee will likely vote this week to approve the pipeline. The bill under consideration is an attempt to sidestep the regulatory approval process, which critics say the Obama Administration has intentionally drawn out. The bill is unlikely to make it far in the Senate, due to general gridlock as well as the opposition of several key Senators.

The government of Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper is displeased with the Obama administration’s perceived stalling on the pipeline. Finance Minister Joe Oliver and Natural Resources Minister Greg Rickford have both criticized Obama, stating that continued delay of the pipeline is hurting the Canadian economy. Currently, crude from the Alberta oil sands is undervalued due to a transportation bottleneck, leading to lower prices. The Canadian Chamber of Congress estimates that this bottleneck is costing the Canadian economy as much as $50 million a day in lost revenue. Therein lies the contradiction at the heart of the dispute.

Environmental concerns and global warming have long been cited as the Obama administration’s reasons for drawing out the Keystone approval process. In reality, the economics of the pipeline are heavily skewed in Canada’s favor, to the possible detriment U.S. consumers. Keystone is the most visible manifestation of the long-term goal of Canadian energy companies to find markets outside the U.S. As the Wall Street Journal explains, and the Canadian Chamber of Commerce and Harper government freely admit, Keystone’s biggest benefit will be to Canadian oil producers, not American consumers. Keystone will enable them to export oil outside of the low-priced American market to higher-priced markets in Asia, Europe, and the developing world. Keeping Canadian crude from hitting world markets is in the best interests of the U.S., but not the Canadians. Of course, it’s not exactly kosher to say that out loud, considering that the United States is still getting about half its oil imports from Canada.

Given that, the “solution” to the Canadian oil price problem is probably going to be built entirely on Canadian soil. Oil companies are already developing a “Plan B” system of trans-Canada pipelines, should Keystone not be approved. Even so, the long-term viability of the Alberta oil sands depends on a relatively high minimum price floor. The highly adulterated quality of that oil, and the resulting expense of processing and refining it, means that Albertan production can only be profitable when the price of oil is relatively high.  This reason combined with new technology is the explanation for why Canadian tar sands haven’t been highly productive until recently. A worldwide decline in the price of oil, such as what happened in the 1980s and 1990s, could still be devastating to tar sands production.

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Iran Is Open For Business: 1.5 Million Annual Unit Sales At Stake Tue, 26 Nov 2013 18:21:15 +0000 parsimg1fi9

Weeks prior to the historic deal reached between Iran and the “P5+1″ group of nations, TTAC reported on some of the machinations going on behind the scenes regarded the United States, France and their respective auto industries ability to do business in Iran. We put forth the theory that any deal with Iran would be a boon to auto manufacturers, who would have access to a market expected to be worth 1.5 million units in a few short years, with a very young population and a standard of living that is substantially better than many highly touted emerging markets.

At the time of publication, we encountered significant dismissal, if not disagreement. But as it turned out, negotiations had been ongoing since the start of 2013, and the preliminary deal appears to make the auto industry a big winner.

Within the next 6 months, the auto industry is expected to inject as much as $500 million into Iran. The auto industry, currently worth over 1 million units annually, will be a hotly contested ground for foreign firms looking to break into the market.

Despite apparently being muscled out of Iran by their alliance with General Motors, PSA’s arrangement with GM is now as good as dead, and that means that PSA has the chance to claw their way back to the top of Iran’s market. Last year, PSA sold nearly 458,000 units in Iran (CKD kits which are being erroneously referred to as spare parts kits). Renault, which sold roughly 100,000 Logans in Iran last year, will also be able to resume business.

But American firms also appear to have designs on Iran’s auto market, with French firms becoming increasingly concerned that American companies are trying to muscle them out of Iran. Speaking to Just-Auto, an unnamed official from IKCO, PSA’s former partner in Iran, said

“This is a new day for automakers. More than [just] previous partners, we can also host more automakers which are interested to come to invest in the automotive sector of Iran.”

French officials have previously asserted that GM’s desire to have PSA end its relationship with IKCO was a way to clear out Iran’s auto market prior to the resumption of trade between the two countries. Indeed, the sanctions regime, as well as pressure from GM, caused Renault and PSA respectively, to withdraw from Iran – leaving a 585,000 unit hole in a 1.2 million unit marketplace.

Previous TTAC reports have outlined how GM officials have been clandestinely meeting with Iranian officials via intermediaries – at the time it appeared to be in violation of sanctions, but new information, asserting that high-level talks between the two countries had been going on since early 2013, have given those discussions some legitimacy.

But now, Iran is open for business not just for GM or any other American firm, but auto makers in Germany, Italy and beyond. The broader questions – whether the deal between Iran and the West is a good one, or whether it’s worth negotiating such a deal in return for the associated economic opportunities – are best left for another arena. What’s germane to our discussion is the future of Iran’s auto market and who stands to benefit.

A foothold, if not outright dominance, of a major emerging market is substantial prize for any automaker forced to compete in a mature global market with an over-saturation of brands and increasing need for volume and scale. Prior to the deal, auto makers were looking to Indonesia, South Africa  and other markets that are substantially poorer, with lesser prospects for growth. The BCG report on emerging markets even shied away from speculating on Iran due to political instability. But all of a sudden, Iran is now open for business, and by the end of the decade, its auto market is expected to be 50 percent larger than Australia’s. It’s unclear which auto makers will rush in to this market. But Iran appears to be wasting no time.

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Generation Why: 2013 Even Worse For Young Car Buyers, But The Dream Is Still Alive Fri, 08 Nov 2013 15:33:15 +0000 renault-duster-front-static-7_560x420

A study by Edmunds on the buying habits of millennials shows that 2013 was not a particularly good year for young car buyers. Despite making good headway in 2012, 2013 saw those gains practically eroded, as a weak job market and rising home prices helped stymie any growth in market share for automotive consumers aged 18-34.

The Edmunds study adds support to the two major points that Generation Why has been propagating from the start: that the lack of interest in cars among young people is largely rooted in poor economic prospects, and that their interest in the automobile goes beyond utilitarian considerations

Millennials’ car-buying patterns in 2012 and in 2013 both lend support to the theory that their weaker car-buying compared to previous generations stems from economic constraints rather than from a preference to not drive. Plus, what they bought in 2013 continues to suggest that Millennials do see cars as more than a means to get around. Even with their decreased share of overall sales in 2013, Millennials did not slack off on buying luxury and sports cars. The share of Millennial purchases from the luxury segment increased slightly. And, in every income group except the highest ($150,000 and over), aged 25-to-34 Millennials continued to buy luxury cars to a similar extent or more as older buyers with same income. Likewise, in nearly every income group, 18-to-24 year old Millennials continued to purchase a greater share of entry and midrange sports cars than the older buyers. These Millennial buying choices suggest an interest in cars that will translate into more purchases when economic conditions allow, just as in 2012.

Edmunds Chief Economist Lacey Plache raises an interesting point: new car sales among young people could continue to disappoint as the economic recovery passes them by. If this is the case, then OEMs should being to take notice. Not just that the oft-cited meme of “kids aren’t into cars” is false, but that a whole segment of the population is being systematically shut out of buying a new car. Rather than continuing to push high-content subcompact and compact cars at Generation Y, perhaps it might be time to shift gears to something simpler and more robust, but with the “cheap chic” appeal of a brand like H&M or Zara. Perhaps a brand like Mitsubishi could reinvent itself as the “frugalista” option, and borrow some product from that other fashionably cheap brand they are now in an alliance with…

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Audi Delays Q3′s US Debut Due To Regulatory Issue Tue, 08 Oct 2013 11:00:45 +0000 Audi_Q3_2.0_TDI_quattro_S_tronic_Karibubraun

The Audi Q3 won’t be coming to the United States for a couple of years, according to Car and Driver. The issue stems from the Q3′s approach angle, which is not sufficient to be classified as a “light truck” in America. Why does this matter? Well, CAFE of course. Crossovers, as car like as they may be, are more beneficial for auto makers looking to meet CAFE standards, and Audi isn’t going to all this trouble to have the Q3 come over as a car.

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Editorial: The Future Is Here At Nissan – Just Not In The Way You’re Expecting Wed, 28 Aug 2013 13:00:19 +0000 Click here to view the embedded video.

The big news this past week from Nissan: lots of old iron at Pebble Beach, concept car test drives for sympathetic journalists and a pledge to have autonomous cars ready (but not on sale) for 2020. More interesting than that is news of Nissan’s booming exports from America. Some say that this is the “new normal” – Japanese OEMs expanding their manufacturing base in America as they leave Japan en masse to both insulate themselves from a volatile yen, take advantage of America’s welcoming manufacturing climate and shed a reliance on Japan’s aging and declining population. And even more interesting than that is how it was presented.

The clip above, which is packaged like a broadcast news report, actually comes from Nissan’s internal communications team in Tokyo. Rather than just issuing a press release, Nissan is looking to have an even greater role in influencing the conversation (awful word I know, but it’s apt). They aren’t just disseminating information to journalists: they are cutting them out entirely. Whatever discussions we may have at TTAC over the efficacy of automotive media or the competency of its press corps, this is a significant development. I don’t think it’s inconceivable that one day, brands will have a stranglehold on the automotive discourse.

Press cars and press trip invites are one way that brands currently manage who has access to product and people, and these are used as both carrots and sticks. In a way, it’s hard to fault PR people for this practice. PR staff, by definition, are committed to disseminating their client’s story, even if it runs counter to the findings of a journalist. Not caring about these perks is one way to subvert the established order, as former EIC Ed Niedermeyer successfully did during his tenure. Even when doing so, it’s possible to get information from internal sources and third-party outlets. But Nissan appears to be going a step further.

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VW Repeats Patterns Of Bad Behavior, Revives Phaeton For North America Wed, 17 Jul 2013 16:15:24 +0000 VW_Phaton_(2._Facelift)_–_Frontansicht,_7._Mai_2011,_Düsseldorf (1)

Having failed to learn from previous mistakes, Volkswagen is inexplicably bringing the Phaeton back to North America, despite being totally contradictory to their push downmarket to appeal to mainstream American car shoppers.

The Phaeton could return as soon as January, with an unveiling at the 2014 North American International Auto Show. According to Martin Winterkorn, the Phaeton is essential to Volkswagen’s plans for America.

“A brand as large as Volkswagen needs a halo project in the upscale segment…We’ve seen what happens to brands that don’t have that kind of project.”

A few things seem more pressing right now than re-introducing an expensive luxury sedan wearing a VW badge. For one, introducing a mid-size crossover (or two) should be a priority for VW, given its importance in the American marketplace. Figuring out where it will be made (along with the associated labor issues) is also a more pressing matter than the new Phaeton.

It’s also hard to reconcile how a premium sedan will fit with Volkswagen’s Americanized lineup of sub-$15k Jettas and Camry-fighting Passats. These products are being sold on the promise of value-for-money and other attributes Americans typically value. But other products, like the Passat CC, Touraeg and even to an extent, the Golf, are holdouts of the more “European” Volkswagen, featuring nicer interior materials, bolder styling and in some cases, higher price points. Despite attempting to re-jig their lineup towards the value end of the spectrum, VW still doesn’t seem to know what direction it wants to go in and sales are starting to reflect that. Inventories are high, incentives are abundant and its gotten to the point where layoffs are occurring at Chattanooga because of the slow paces of sales. Introducing the Phaeton will pull it increasingly in one direction. Whether it’s the right one is up for debate.

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The Chevrolet SS We Should Have Gotten Wed, 29 May 2013 14:36:59 +0000 vauxhall-vxr8-gts-front

While we get the Chevrolet SS with a naturally aspirated small-block V8 and a two-pedal transmission, customers in the UK get a much more aggressive package.

A Vauxhall in name only, the VXR8 GTS gets the supercharged 6.2L V8 from the Camaro ZL1 putting down 576 horsepower, and has the option of a 6-speed manual gearbox as well as an automatic. Magnetic ride shocks, torque vectoring and a manettino-style dial that can adjust a whole range of parameters (like ESC calibration, launch control, exhaust volume and steering feel) are also included. But it all comes at a price. At around 55,000 pounds, the VXR8 is about 25 percent cheaper than an equivalent BMW M5. Our Chevrolet SS will probably come in at around half the price of a US spec M5. I also tend to prefer the more subtle exterior of our SS – but that was the chief complaint against the Pontiac GTO, so what do I know?

Visit our Chevy SS Forum for discussions on the Chevy SS.

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Ghosn Issues VW-Like Sales Goal To America Mon, 13 May 2013 12:00:39 +0000 Carlos Ghosn. Photo courtesy Bertel Schmitt.

Weaker than expected growth in the United States has led Carlos Ghosn to issue an even more ambitious goal; double Nissan’s sales by 2017.

Nissan North America sold 1,141,656 vehicles in the United States last year, with just over 1 million of those vehicles coming from the Nissan brand. To achieve Ghosn’s goal, Nissan will have to post 18 percent gains every year for the next four years.

Automotive News reports that some of the blame has been placed on production issues, while Nissan is also looking to boost efficiencies at the retail level to help increase sales. Nissan wants to double the number of unit sales per outlet by the end of fiscal year 2017, from 959. By comparison, Toyota sells 1,491 units per franchise while Honda sells 1,220. Adding dealers in the West, Midwest and Northeast is also a possibility.

To say that Nissan’s plan is aggressive is an understatement. When Volkswagen issued their call for 800,000 units in the United States, it set a target date nearly a decade into the future, and matched it with a strong product push targeted squarely at the tastes and budgets of U.S. consumers. While there’s still another 5 years to go, Volkswagen is already at 438,133 units in the U.S. as of last year.

With Europe in the toilet and Japan and China looking shaky, America is one side of Ghosn’s magic coin (the other being low cost cars), since it’s a locale where auto sales are not in freefall. Ghosn’s pursuit of marketshare for Nissan is reflected in the newest round of products, like the Versa, Sentra, Pathfinder and Altima, which emphasize comfort, interior space and value. In this context, their decision to slash prices to make their cars more competitive in online comparisons makes sense. With such a short timeframe and such a far-fetched target, every little bit will help move Nissan across the board.


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Switzerland Loves Old American Cars Thu, 18 Apr 2013 15:33:51 +0000

My girlfriend and I recently vacationed in Zurich. Anyone who’s ever been to Switzerland will be surprised by this, since it’s possibly the least romantic place in human history. Seriously: instead of flowers, stuffed animals and chocolate, Swiss couples exchange presents like a well-built lamp, oddly-shaped stainless steel kitchen utensils, and … chocolate. And then they shake hands and sleep in two separate very sturdy beds.

Beyond the pragmatic, stoic nature of the Swiss, Switzerland has one other major issue: it’s really expensive. And I don’t mean in the usual American traveler “Oh it’s Europe and things are expensive” way. I mean my girlfriend and I were walking down a street in Zurich and saw, in a shop window, a coat hanger that cost 45 francs. The dollar-to-franc exchange rate, for those who are curious, is roughly one-to-one. So they wanted 45 dollars for a coat hanger. Presented with chocolate, it would’ve made a great gift for a Swiss wife.


You might think I’m trying to dissuade you from visiting Switzerland, but I’m not. I’m just trying to convince you not to take your significant other, unless she (or he – the Swiss would be OK with that) absolutely loves the color gray and evenly-spaced concrete sidewalk slabs. On the contrary, I think the TTAC crowd would really enjoy a trip to Switzerland for precisely one reason: the Swiss absolutely love old American cars.

My girlfriend and I arrived in Zurich on a Saturday night and immediately began seeing them. An old Cadillac Eldorado here; a 1980s Caprice there. Zurich is absolutely filled with AMG Mercedes and “S” model Audis, but it doesn’t require a very keen eye to also see big old American cars that most Americans have long since forgotten, unless we’re a TTAC commenter.

Interestingly, it isn’t just old cars that the Swiss lust after. Remember that rather awful Buick Regal they made from 1988 to 1996? You know the car I’m talking about: it’s the default choice for senior center parking permits. (“Ma’am, which vehicle do you have? 1994 Buick Regal, or Other?”) The Swiss have those. And as you can see below, the Swiss also have the 1986-1991 Buick Skylark, despite the best efforts of General Motors to make sure they fell apart after about seven years.

Even more interestingly, the Swiss keep all of these cars in absolutely perfect condition. Seriously, when was the last time you saw an ’86-’91 Skylark with its original wheels and a grille badge? This has happened only twice in history: this guy’s car in Switzerland, and the president of Buick’s car for about six months in 1987 until a hubcap fell victim to a Detroit pothole.

The Swiss Are Crazy

Clearly, the Swiss are crazy. But it’s not because they love old American cars. It’s because they want to drive them in Switzerland.

Let’s go back to my earlier remarks about how expensive everything is in Switzerland. It’s not just coat hangers: the average liter of petrol costs 1.4 Euros. I know what you’re thinking: I have no idea how much that is! Neither do I, but Google tells me it translates to $1.84 per liter, or more than $7.00 per gallon. I can verify this because I had a BMW 128d rental car in Switzerland, and filling it up required payment via cash, credit, or kidney.

It’s not just the cost that makes old Detroit iron (note my use of the term “old Detroit iron,” like a car journalist from the ‘90s) so absurd in Switzerland. It’s the size of Swiss cities. Anyone who’s been to Europe will agree: the roads were designed for vehicles sized somewhere between a horse and an original Fiat 500. Everything else is ungainly. I once rented a GLK in Europe and it felt like I was riding a piano down the sidewalk.

The size issue is no different in Switzerland. The roads haven’t been enlarged to compensate for K5 Blazers and Gran Torino station wagons, meaning that actually driving one of these things requires a) constant fear of running into something, and b) encyclopedic knowledge of gas station locations. I cannot imagine why anyone would want to attempt it.

So Why Do They?

This question has bugged me ever since I visited Switzerland. I immediately came home and researched it, but found absolutely nothing on the psyche of the Swiss that would explain why they might choose to pilot these 18-foot, gas-guzzling behemoths down the smallest streets in the world.

I did discover that vehicle importation laws are rather relaxed in Switzerland. That means as long as you can pass various safety inspections, you can drive pretty much whatever you want. This, of course, explains the perfect condition of all the cars.

But it doesn’t explain the reason for them. Except that maybe, beyond the drab buildings, spotless streets and perfectly-groomed lawns, the Swiss secretly enjoy a Sunday morning drive just as much as the rest of us. As long as it’s in some old Detroit iron.

And before you ask: yes, every single one of these pictures was taken on a single day in Switzerland.

Doug DeMuro operates He’s owned an E63 AMG wagon, road-tripped across the US in a Lotus without air conditioning, and posted a six-minute lap time on the Circuit de Monaco in a rented Ford Fiesta. One year after becoming Porsche Cars North America’s youngest manager, he quit to become a writer. His parents are very disappointed.

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Court OKs Suzuki Bankruptcy Plans Mon, 04 Mar 2013 11:00:28 +0000

The 30 year run of Suzuki auto sales in the United States is one step closer to coming to an end, as a California bankruptcy court approved Suzuki’s restructuring plans.

Suzuki Motor of America will be the new entity responsible for selling motorcycles and powersports equipment once Suzuki sells off its remaining new car inventory. Meanwhile, Suzuki sales outlets will continue to honor warranties and provide parts and service for the company’s automobiles.

A report by Automotive News scribe and Suzuki expert Ryan Beene highlights a bleak picture for Suzuki; sales fell from over 100,000 units in 2007 to a paltry 25,357 units in 2012 – about as many Camrys as Toyota sells in a month. An unfavorable exchange rate and contraction in the sub-prime auto market ultimately spelled doom for the auto maker in America.

Fans of the brand hoping for a return look to be out of luck as well. Chairman Osamu Suzuki ruled out a future return to America, stating

“Taking into account the issue of the exchange rates and the fact that we have no future outlook for making large vehicles, I think re-entry would be extremely hopeless.”

As for the status of Suzuki’s inventory – if you want an SX4 or Kizashi, you better act fast. A Suzuky spokesman was unable to tell Beene how many cars were left in America, while listed just 1376 Suzuki cars nationwide.

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1 Million EV Goal Absent From State Of The Union Wed, 13 Feb 2013 16:30:56 +0000

Those who watched the State of the Union address last night and have an interest in autos may have noticed a conspicuous absence; Barack Obama failed to mention his goal of putting 1 million EVs on the road by 2015.

Obama last mentioned the figure in 2011, stating

At the California Institute of Technology, they’re developing a way to turn sunlight and water into fuel for our cars. At Oak Ridge National Laboratory, they’re using supercomputers to get a lot more power out of our nuclear facilities. With more research and incentives, we can break our dependence on oil with biofuels, and become the first country to have 1 million electric vehicles on the road by 2015.

Since then, the figure has been absent from the address. In 2012 did see Obama promise to  “…not cede the wind or solar or battery industry to China or Germany…” Well, we all know what happened to A123 Systems.


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Is VW’s Target Audience Beta Males or Alpha Females? Thu, 24 Jan 2013 13:00:59 +0000  

Click here to view the embedded video.

Considering that it seems as though every other commercial on television follows the doofus male wise female plot, the new VW Passat commercial released just in time for the run up to the Super Bowl is hardly the most egregiously misandrist (yes, Virginia, despite what your spellchecker says, it is a word). With a tagline of “Pass down something he will be grateful for”, the ad shows a father in a shirt and tie teaching his son how to throw a baseball, in front of a Passat sitting in their driveway. Completely clueless about the mechanics of throwing overhand, but convinced of his knowledge of the subject, dad has form that makes “throwing like a girl” a compliment by comparison. He looks like a cross between someone putting shot and a gooney bird trying to land. The son dutifully imitates dad’s form, but with a skeptical look on his face. Neither can get the ball anywhere near the target.  I’m not sure the ad is on target either.

This isn’t VW’s first attempt at a little father-son humor. Their “Darth Vader” Super Bowl ad last year was found to be endearing by millions (though I thought it had a touch of cruelty in it), and a number of people see warm humor and not misandry in the current Passat ad. On the other hand, that’s not a universal assessment and the negative reaction to the commercial by some has me asking the question: just who is Volkswagen trying to sell Passats to with this ad in the first place?  There also appears to be some pushback from men who don’t like patronizing companies that patronize or demean them. Rather than sell them Passats, the commercial might be harming the VW brand with men.

Dr. Helen Smith is a Tennessee based child psychologist who works with violent teens. Her husband Glenn Reynolds is a law professor in Knoxville. Dr. Helen, as she apparently prefers to be called, is that rara avis, a woman who not only likes men, but is willing in these oh so PC days, to swim against the stream of so-called gender feminism and actually decry male bashing.

A reader sent Dr. Smith a note about the commercial, prompting her post, Can dads do anything right?, asking her readers how they think the ad portrays men and boys. Of more relevance to TTAC and our audience here is the comment her original correspondent made, “I have no idea how this will sell cars, or to whom.”

To be sure, not all of the reactions, from men as well as women, have been negative. In a 100+ comment long reply thread to Smith’s posting of the ad, a number of people found the ad inoffensive, even humorous. A few people were happy that the ad showed a father and son actually engaged with each other (lo how the might have fallen). Still, many men, and even some women were offended at the portrayal of yet another incompetent father. Even more interesting to me as a car guy was the number of people who reacted by saying that they were so offended by the ad that they will no longer even consider buying a Passat or other VW product. It reminded me of how some folks like to use the term Government Motors in describing why they won’t buy that company’s products. Actually, at least a couple of the comments say they won’t buy GM products and now they’ll do the same with VWs.

Now I’m sure that some of you are saying, “so what if some troglodyte right wingers are offended? Times have changed. White males aren’t in charge anymore. Who cares what a bunch of bitter clingers say?”

Who cares? Ferdinand Piech maybe, though he might be too arrogant to notice. The United States is a key market in Piech’s delusion of grandeur plans for VW’s multimillion unit expansion by the end of the decade, and while marketing consumer goods in America does tend to target women, who are indeed the deciders in the vast majority of consumer purchase decision in the U.S., the single most important part of the North American light vehicle market, pickup trucks,  is almost exclusively marketed to men. VW isn’t the only company that knows that boys imitate their fathers. Unlike the boy in that Silverado ad, though,  the boy in the VW ad doesn’t play with a toy truck. Volkswagen doesn’t sell pickup trucks in the US market.

Click here to view the embedded video.

Perhaps the VW brand is deliberately avoiding a big burly male marketing image, showing men being domestic, not quite so aggressively male, because their product line is directed at women and domesticated males. When was the last time you saw a Volkwagen commercial that touted one of their cars as a canyon carving autobahn brenner? Maybe, at least in North America, Audi is VAG’s brand for masculine alphas and VW is their car for women and beta providers with adolescent rockstar fantasies.

So what do you think? Does the ad offend you. Do you think it will cost VW sales?

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 dig deeper 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 – RJS

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QOTD: What Does American Luxury Even Mean? Tue, 04 Dec 2012 14:00:53 +0000 Click here to view the embedded video.

Nearly everyone was unanimous in their assessment that Lincoln’s re-branding campaign is an unmitigated disaster unfolding in slow motion; from the name change to Lincoln Motor Company to the bizarre tie-up with Jimmy Fallon and the marketing-buzzword laden BS the whole thing reeks of inaction disguised in the form of sophisticated marketing efforts.

The most interesting angle in this mess is the fact that American luxury cars are in such a shambles that Lincoln’s biggest threat doesn’t really come from Cadillac, but from Ford itself.

Cadillac and Lincoln are on two entirely different planets. Lincoln is stuck under the shadow of its sibling, the Blue Oval. Ford’s offering are mechanically identical, packed with nearly all of the same content and retail for thousands less – with the possibility of carrying a more attractive emblem on the hood. None of Lincoln’s product offer any kind of unique proposition. The best Lincoln on sale today is actually Korean, as the Hyundai Equus does a damn good job of approximating the driver and passenger experience of a Town Car. Make of that what you will.

At least Cadillac has some kind of vision. The Standard of the World really wants to be better than Europe’s finest, and the ATS is a fine effort, except for one small detail; the only reason it’s been able to grab the brass ring from the BMW 3-Series is because the current car is one of the weaker efforts put forth by the Roundel. Put an E90 328i next to any ATS and you understand that the ATS comes pretty close to being a great car, but misses the mark.

The rest of Cadillac’s lineup is doesn’t exactly hold to it though. The CTS is long in the tooth, the V Series are irrelevant to all but the most diehard car geeks and the XTS is still languishing in premium sedan obscurity. About the only car in the lineup with any kind of social capital is the Escalade, which endures as the vulgarian chariot of choice for those with more money than discretion.

The only real concrete vision of what an American luxury car should be comes from Chrysler, of all places. The 300 makes a bold visual statement, comes with a range of sophisticated powertrain options and finally has an interior that is worthy of being praised. And what value, too. A base 300, with the 292 horsepower V6 and 8-speed automatic transmission, starts at a hair under $30,000. I don’t even think I’d get the V8, heretical as it may be. It won’t have the driving dynamics of an import car, but when was an American car ever supposed to be able to clock off a sub 8-minute ‘Ring time? Best of all, it occupies that long-dormant niche that used to be the domain of Oldsmobile and even Pontiac. It was a luxury car that told everyone you’d arrived, but wasn’t sufficiently extravagant that your clients felt that they were being fleeced. No wonder both my Grandfathers were Mopar men.

But that’s just me. I’m not even American (though the 300 is built not too far from my home). Let’s consider this a thought exercise. Run wild with your ideas about American luxury, what it was, what it is and what it should be.

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Suzuki Death Watch 8: A Eulogy Due To Incompetence Tue, 06 Nov 2012 21:07:04 +0000 Click here to view the embedded video.

When the news came out last night of American Suzuki Motor Corporation (ASMC) filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, I was glad to be validated in my suspicions, but sad that a potentially great opportunity had been wasted due to mismanagement and short-sightedness on behalf of its Japanese management.

In other regions, Suzuki does an excellent job catering to the needs of each domestic market. In India, through their long time partnership with Maruti (which has since turned into full ownership of the once state-owned automaker), Suzuki enjoys double digit market share that is the envy of every other automaker in the country. Maruti Suzuki has control over product, they understand the needs of Indians looking for new cars, and they have enough financial input into SMC’s bottom line that the executives in Japan have no choice but to listen.

In North America, things haven’t been as pleasant for the plucky automaker. After dealing with a toxic review from Consumer Reports in the late 80s, saddled with a narrow range of vehicles and General Motors input throughout the 90s, and burdened with selling Korean shitboxes in the 2000s after a joint venture purchase of Daewoo with GM and SAIC, the car maker didn’t have a chance. Or did it?

Suzuki is, unfortunately, broken at the top and ASMC’s Chapter 11 filing is not necessarily the fault of those working in Brea, California. During my conversations with a number of current and former ASMC employees over the last few months, there was definitely a sense that those in charge in Japan either planned for the automotive division to fail, resulting in the Chapter 11 filing, or were complicit in listening to Chairman Osamu Suzuki’s incompetence and didn’t want to piss off the boss. Or both.

During one particular conversation with a former ranking ASMC employee, Osamu was described as “a senile old man that has absolutely no idea what he is doing.” That same former employee also stated the reason for the end of the Volkswagen-Suzuki tie-up wasn’t due to Volkswagen attempting to poach Suzuki for all it was worth or the rank and file engineers not getting along. Instead, Osamu merely “changed his mind”, invented a story to fit his modus operandi, and blasted it to the media as much as he possibly could. No wonder then, when the end of the partnership came to light in the press, Volkswagen’s reply was “we have absolutely no idea what is going on.”

With a company head like Osamu calling the shots, doing what he can to keep Suzuki under his absolute control, it is no wonder ASMC failed in the US. His judgement has been highly impaired for years and there is nobody in a position to kick him off the throne.

And that absolute control is what brings us to the other reason Suzuki has failed to make a massive presence in North America over the last 15 years: who has the power? For every Japanese brand that decides to bring their vehicles to the North American market, their local American headquarters are the nerve center for much of the product planning. Toyota Japan doesn’t plan the next Tundra. Even Nissan’s reincarnation of the Z car, the 350, was mainly worked in the United Stated because that is where they knew they would realize most of their sales. But, ASMC had absolutely no control over what they sold, save for the Equator and some packaging on other vehicles. ASMC didn’t request certain models be built for the American market. ASMC was told what they would sell, whether they liked it or not.

ASMC’s target over the last couple of years has been to make a profit without haven’t to invest in its portfolio in order to pull it off (or at least that is what everyone has been told). There is no such thing as a legitimate business that requires no input. That’s a Ponzi scheme. Unfortunately for employees, dealers, and brand loyalists, the people running this scheme are not the ones who are going to have to pay for it in the end.

Suzuki Canada, with its lackluster range of vehicles, has been in the same boat, selling even less selection than that of its sister to the south. So, even though Suzuki Canada says everything is good in the Great White North, just remember the same people are at the helm in Japan, and there is no geopolitical border for incompetence.

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Suzuki Death Watch 7: Inside The Horrible Dysfunction At American Suzuki Tue, 06 Nov 2012 18:24:42 +0000

Late last night, we were contacted by an employee of American Suzuki Motors Corp, who reached out to TTAC to vent his frustrations regarding the downfall of ASMC’s auto business. The picture painted by this employee is one of a highly dysfunctional operation, focused only on tomorrow and never beyond that, a revolving door of Japanese management and deep antipathy for American workers.

Though we’ve confirmed the identity of this Suzuki employee, they wished to remain anonymous due to the sensitive nature of their remarks.

Over the course of our Death Watch, one of the most persistent claims that we’ve heard on background has been the appalling corporate culture that exists at ASMC. American workers were apparently mistreated by the Japanese managers brought in to run the company for a year or two, and had little investment in the success of ASMC.
According to the subject of our interview, it was worse than that.
“I have been here 5 years. In this time, we have gone though several regime changes. Most of the Japanese management lasted here about a year or two at most, then sent back to Japan for reassignment to other countries,.
“Here at Suzuki, us American workers are not to speak directly to them. We must go through our department managers. The Japanese do not make eye contact with anyone, even in passing in the office. Many of us American workers took this as a huge insult. I know I do.”
Observers have long criticized Suzuki for their lack of fresh product. Our insider paints a picture of a division starved for product and totally at the mercy of inept and weak management.
The latest and current group of Japanese managers were brought in back in May 2011. There sole purpose has been cutting costs and searching only to become profitable, by any means necessary. This lead to a huge lack of any marketing, advertising, or just general word of Suzuki products. 
American managers, who have been lucky enough to keep their positions, they mostly just agree with whatever the Japanese say, for fear of losing their positions. Anyone who seems to have an opinion other than what the Japanese have is either quickly shunned or later terminated during these layoff periods. They say nothing and just go along with whatever is the plan of the day…they do not have any say in product planning.
How it works is they place dealer orders early in the model year and hope that Japan agrees with these numbers. However, they have always been at the mercy of what SMC is willing to produce and ship to the United States.Most of their dealer network is starved for product and parts at this time, and has been for a while. 
Our insider identifies April 2008 as the begining of the end for ASMC’s car business. Rick Suzuki, chairman of ASMC, admonished the employees for not meeting the 5 year goal of selling half a million cars, despite record sales numbers at the time. Bonuses and raises were suspended, and layoffs were instituted until the division became profitable. The biggest hit for the automotive side seemed to occur on the marketing end
 By April 2009, we had laid off approximately 15% of our workforce. Layoffs occured in all divisions at that time.  By summer of 2010, ASMC had let go of most of their PR/Media Department, and hired Questus as a consultant. However, as you know, there have only been very limited advertising and marketing for most Suzuki products. They did produce a Kizashi Kicks campaign, but with minimal success. The public just didn’t buy a Kizashi was a competitor to higher end luxuy vehicle like Audi and Mercedes that they featured in these commercials and on the website. They did place a Super Bowl ad, but only in about 15 markets, mostly on in the Northeast. The Cash for Clunkers program did help sales at the time, but it was not deemed as a success here by the Japanese. There have been constant rounds of random downsizing since the first layoffs of 2009. Most occur every 6-12 months. Yesterday was the biggest round since April of 2009, with almost 70 people being terminated including the all automotive field representatives.
The Japanese consider us to be an automotive company first, everything else is secondary. However, most people can only remember the Samauri. They had no idea that we were even still in business as an auto manufacturer!  We only had a 0.02% market share here in America. The main reason was that no one knew us. I doubt today if anyone cares about the chapter 11 filing. Most are probably gonna say to themselves, “Suzuki made cars??”
When asked what Suzuki did right over the last 5 years, our insider was characteristically blunt; “Honestly…” he said “dropping the auto division.  He continues
The lack of management and communication here lead many employees to become hopeless about auto. The ones who worked hard and tried to make a difference were treated poorly by the Japanese as well as their immediate managers and either were later terminated or left on their own accord.
We should have an even better picture later on, with a eulogy from Suzuki Death Watch founder Mark Stevenson, where even more information from within ASMC will be discussed. It only gets bleaker.
This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity
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Capsule Review: 2013 Corvette 427 Tue, 04 Sep 2012 12:30:47 +0000
Neil Armstrong died on August 25th of this year and the nation mourned, doubly so. First for the man, and second for what he stood for: hero, explorer, icon of a time when all that was best in America rose up on a pillar of smoke and flame to dance among the heavens.

The astronauts, of course, all drove Corvettes. GM gave a white ’62 to first-flyer Alan Shepard upon his return to Earth, then a Florida dealership provided subsequent one-year leasing deals to put astronauts behind the wheel of the latest models – clever PR for sure, and yet it seemed a perfect fit. While the very first ‘Vettes were more Piper Cub than Bell X-1, those that would be piloted by the likes of Gus Grissom and Alan Bean had the Right Stuff; the fastest and best machines America could produce.

Sixty years after GM built the first Corvette (and about fifty-six since they got the recipe right), here we are with an explorer on Mars, and it’s a robot with a sarcastic twitter feed. Heroes are scarce; the cult of celebrity now shines a spotlight on the kind of people you’d cross the street to avoid. And as for the Corvette?

This convertible is the final sortie for the C6 ‘Vette; in production since 2005, the sixth-gen Corvette is now almost entirely overshadowed by the strong-selling Camaro. Rumors about the C7 flit about the internet at the speed of conjecture, but if you’d check the click-count, I’d warrant more attention is drawn by war-correspondence on the battle between the ludicrously powerful supercharged pony cars.

Still, there’s no denying the old girl’s a stunner. It’s not really a Z06 convertible, more a Grand Sport with extra add-ons like carbon-fibre body panels. Still, between the enormous alloys and serving-platter brakes, power bulge of the hood (also carbon-fibre), and those twin grey-blue stripes on the ethereal-white body, you can tell this car is something special: a tarmac speedboat.

It is, per expectation, as plastic as Heidi Montag’s left breast. Prodding the rear bumper lightly makes for some alarming flex. There’s little sense that this car is precision-engineered or built to last.

But then, these are the rules of Corvette-dom. ‘Vettes are a big Chevy V8 up front, rear-wheel-drive out back, flimsy body in-between and a woeful interior on the inside. Speaking of which…

It does not do to complain about the inside of a C6 Corvette overmuch. Everything you’ve heard about for the past eight years is true – the navigation system is dated, the quality of the materials seems unequal to the price-tag, and there are a whole host of minor annoyances. The top, for instance, has a manual latch that’s a bit fiddly and the power-folding mechanism balked several times.

But we know all this. We’ve had these shortcomings outlined to us time and time again until they’ve become gospel. Corvettes are fast, but they’re tacky. They’re uncouth. Someday the C7 might correct the short-comings, but the C6 just doesn’t measure up to European standard. Right?

Somehow, sitting in the 427, none of these “truths” seem to matter. Just as it looks from the exterior, the inside feels like that of a cigarette boat. Yes, the seats are more comfortable than well-bolstered, but this is a street-car, not a track-special coupe.

Already feeling preconceptions melting away, I push in the clutch and press the afterthought of a rectangular start button. Two minutes later, any thoughts of what a Corvette might be is left far behind in a cloud of burnt hydrocarbons as the 427 demonstrates, unequivocally, what it is.

This is a wonderful car. Absolutely wonderful. Not only is it immensely powerful, with the Z06′s seven-litre mill providing 505hp, but there is also little-to-nothing separating you from the experience.

Sure, all that power is harnessed by wide, sticky Michelin Pilot sports, and the balanced chassis is suspended on the hyper-adaptable and ICP-baffling Magnetic Ride Control suspension, but the 427 is anything but buttoned-down. Apply full throttle in second gear, feel the chassis yaw and hear the change-over as the exhaust baffles snap open at three thousand rpm and the ‘Vette roars its battle-cry.

An ’80s-style heads-up display starts rolling over green-lit numbers at a ridiculous pace. If you’re used to miles-per, you’ll think you’ve switched over to metric. If you’re used to metric, you’ll think you’re looking at a hundredths and tenths on a stop-watch.

The 427 roars down the on-ramp with the unstoppable thrust of a Saturn V. Without a roof, there’s nothing to muffle the thunder of that uncorked LS7; come off the loud pedal and the resulting crump-crump sounds like the echo of far-off artillery. If you drive this thing through a tunnel and it doesn’t make you cackle like a madman, you’re probably a communist. Or dead.

Everything that was missing from my experience with the 911 can be found here. The ‘Vette has none of the finesse of the niner, and considerably less practicality. But it’s more honest somehow; analog, not digital – an F-14, not a flight simulator.

It’s unfair to call it crude; you’d not use the same epithet for a sledgehammer or a SPAS-12. The Corvette is simple, brutal, visceral and vital in a way other sports cars have forgotten how to be.

At the end of its production run, it’s just a funny plastic car with a gargantuan heart of pure aluminum. I love every single thing about it.

A 1967 427 Stingray once driven by Neil Armstrong is for sale on eBay right now, with bids rumoured to be in the quarter-million range. Ghoulishly, the car did not previously meet reserve when listed originally, but now is almost certain to reach a higher number with his passing.
It’s a battered old thing, clapped-out and badly treated, with hacked-up fender flares and a patina of abandon. Still something special though; something worth preserving.

It’s hard to imagine a modern astronaut behind the wheel of the modern 427. Not that slipping the bonds of Earth takes much less courage than it used to, but there’s less of a by-the-seat-of-your-pants air about it.

These days something like an autonomous car might be more appropriate. Or, given the successful flight of SpaceX (one step closer to Weyland-Yutani), perhaps a Model S?

No, this is not a car for today’s scientist-explorers. Instead, it’s a link back in time, an appropriate flag-bearer to mark the 60th anniversary of an exceptional automobile.

Its replacement, the C7, will no doubt be a refinement in many ways: proper seats, improved in-car amenities, better electronics, reduced fuel-consumption, probably faster as well.

Tough to say, though, whether actually any better than this, the last hurrah for the sixth-gen Corvette.

Because it’s a God-damn rocketship.

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2013 Ford Mondeo Delayed Tue, 17 Jul 2012 17:48:29 +0000

The 2013 Ford Mondeo, aka our 2013 Fusion, was supposed to hit UK showrooms around this time, but the launch has been pushed back to September, so Ford can work out some quality-related bugs prior to its on-sale date.

AutoExpress spoke to a Ford representative in the UK, who told the publication that the Mondeo would be delayed so that Ford could “work through various issues to ensure a robust and high-quality launch”. Specifics weren’t given by Ford, but WhatCar, quoted another unnamed Ford spokesman as stating

‘We have a complex global vehicle programme, and we have to sort issues with the vehicle’s robustness and quality that would not be met with the original timings,’ he continued.

The European Mondeos are all sourced from Ford’s Genk, Belgium assembly plant. In the mean time, the tried-and-true current Mondeo will be produced to supply the market.

There’s been no indication that American-market Fusions will be afflicted with these sorts of problems (yet), but that doesn’t mean Ford hasn’t learned from the issues that affected the initial months of the Fiesta and Focus. Hopefully, they paid attention and learned from past transgressions. The importance of the Mondeo in Europe can’t be overstated, and a botched launch would be disastrous, perhaps more so than the DN101 Taurus kerfuffle was for North America.

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Romney Would Sell GM Stock, Look For CAFE Alternatives Wed, 06 Jun 2012 17:58:54 +0000

The Detroit News interviewed presidential hopeful Mitt Romney on Tuesday, and the Republican candidate-to-be shared his thoughts on government ownership of GM stock and the future of CAFE.

Romney told the paper that he would like to see government-held GM stock sold as quickly as possible

“There is no reason for the government to continue to hold (its GM stake),” Romney, a Detroit native and son of an auto executive, said Friday…The president is delaying the sale of the shares to try and avoid the story that the taxpayer took another loss. I would get the company independent from government and run for the interests of the consumer and the enterprise and its workers — not for the political considerations of government officials.”

Also put on the table was the notion of revisiting the CAFE regulations and perhaps seeking “a better way of encouraging fuel economy”. Romney suggested a market driven approach, with “…vehicles that people want…”rather than government mandates, as a means of spearheading fuel economy increases. Romney claimed that co-operation would be essential to such measures, and also said that electric vehicles are “…a technology that people aren’t interested in.”

Romney’s words will find praise with a certain element on TTAC, but lest we forget that increasing fuel economy also means less revenue for the gas tax…and who knows where that could lead.

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Neil Armstrong’s 1967 Chevrolet Corvette 427 For Sale Wed, 02 May 2012 17:44:30 +0000

As a teenager, I idolized Tom Wolfe after reading Bonfire of the Vanities. By the end of high school, I had read every single book read by him, and his too-brief description of the muscle cars of American astronauts in The Right Stuff instantly came back to me (along with the smells of my high school cafeteria) upon seeing this ad.

Wolfe recounts a story of the astronauts befriending car dealer and 1960 Indy 500 winner Jim Rathmann. Rathmann was also friends with Chevrolet head Ed Cole. The two of them made sure that the astronauts got behind the wheel of Cole’s products

Eventually, Gus and Gordo had Corvettes like Al Shepard’s; Wally moved up from an Austin-Healy to a Maserati; and Scott Carpenter got a Shelby Cobra, a true racing vehicle. Al was continually coming by Rathmann’s to have his gear ratios changed. Gus wanted flared fenders and magnesium wheels. The fever gripped them all, but Gus and Gordo especially. They were determined to show the champ, Rathmann, and each other that they could handle these things. Gus would go out rat-racing at night at the Cape, racing full-bore for the next curve, dealing with the oncoming headlights by psychokinesis, spinning off the shoulders and then scrambling back up on the highway for more of it. It made you cover up your eyes and chuckle at the same time. The boys were fearless in an automobile, they were determined to hang their hides right out over the edge—and they had no idea what mediocre drivers they actually were, at least by the standards of professional racing.

Like Gus Grissom and Alan Shepard, Neil Armstrong evidently had a Corvette at some point in his life. This example, now owned by a private citizen who apparently bought it from a NASA employee after Armstrong’s use, isn’t in the best condition. British classic car fanciers would tout its “lovely patina” and “provenance”.

Just what type of restoration the car would need is up for debate. I’m of the opinion that cars should be driven and enjoyed, not garaged and gawked at, but it’s important to strike a balance between keeping the car’s history intact, and bringing it up to an appropriate condition.

Thanks to Bring a Trailer for the link

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Coda Withdraws DOE Loan Request Worth $334 Million Thu, 26 Apr 2012 20:57:58 +0000

Coda Automotive withdrew a Department of Energy loan application after two years of waiting. The $334 million loan was supposed to have gone towards establishing an assembly plant in Columbus, Ohio, but for now, production will continue in China.

The plant would have created as many as 2,000 jobs, but the DOE’s stalling means that production will continue overseas. Coda’s Forrest Beanum told Automotive News that

“It became clear to us after the Solyndra debacle that things in Washington as it pertains to this program were becoming quite politicized…Going into an election year, our objective was not to be unnecessarily scrutinized due to politics,” he said. Rather, its goal was to focus on the U.S. launch of its new EV this year, he added.”

Coda final assembly is carried out in California using “glider” chassis assembled in China. Speculating whether Coda would have really added jobs in the Midwest would just be conjecture at this point (Fisker, anyone). It’s encouraging to see Coda looking to add jobs in America, even if, as Ed points out, the car needs some work to be up to American market standards. Maybe their new tie-up with Great Wall will let them build an EV here without government help too.

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Infiniti Production To Leave Japan; North America, China Possible New Sites Thu, 05 Apr 2012 13:51:43 +0000  

Nissan’s upscale Infiniti cars can only be bought outside of Japan, but most of the cars are made in Japan. That will change, said Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn in New York.

Infiniti cars are produced at Nissan plants in the Tochigi and Fukuoka Prefectures of Japan. Nissan/Renault CEO Carlos Ghosn said he will move more Infiniti production outside of Japan, The Nikkei [sub] reports. Earlier this year, Nissan started producing the Infiniti JX SUV in Smyrna, Tennessee.

Citing the strong yen as a reason, CEO Carlos Ghosn said that more Infiniti production will be moved to ‘North America,’ and China. While talking to reporters after a speech, Ghosn said:

“We are suffering in that most Infiniti products are made in Japan. We have most sourcing in Japan, but none of the sales. Obviously this is not the right system. We should produce cars where we sell them…. North America is a potential base, and China.”

Infiniti production in China had long been rumored. This would be the first time that Infiniti production in the Middle Kingdom has been officially acknowledged, indicating a successful conclusion of the negotiations with Nissan joint venture partner Dongfeng.

“We’re going to make announcements soon about a new base for sourcing for Infiniti,” Ghosn promised.  ”

Nissan has already started moving the global HQ of Infiniti to Hong Kong.



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Audi Adding More Models To U.S. Lineup As Its Insatiable Quest For Volume Continues Fri, 06 Jan 2012 19:05:58 +0000  



In the endless race to the bottom to be first in overall sales in America, Audi will be adding more models to their U.S. lineup, hoping to increase overall volume while copying Mercedes-Benz and BMW’s strategy of creating unwanted and useless niche models to pawn off on vulgarians with adequate credit to qualify for leasing  money.

The Q3 and A3 sedan appear to be the first products making their way over, and they will surely be the darlings of sorority house parking lots across the nation. Audi will also build cars in the United States starting in 2015, though details regarding vehicles or the location of the plant weren’t announced. Automotive News has Audi boss Rupert Stadler eyeing growth over here in both the SUV and sedan markets, so it’s only a matter of time before we’re flooded with even more derivative products – hopefully the forthcoming A2 concept is as innovative and weird as its predecessor.

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Next Lexus ES To Make Buick Lacrosse Look “Laughable” Tue, 03 Jan 2012 19:05:15 +0000

 The rivalry between the Buick Lacrosse and the Lexus ES350 may never become the stuff of automotive legend, but for a certain subset of consumers – wealthy men aged 65+ living part time in South Florida – the two vehicles are carefully cross-shopped to determine which car has the plushest ride, quietest cabin and parcel shelf best suited for stacking Kleenex boxes and adjustable-back baseball caps.

Now, the great conjecture machine known as the blogosphere (in this case, GM Authority) is reporting that the new Lexus ES, due out as a 2013 model, will make its Chinese domestic rival look “laughable. That according to one “well-connected auto industry executive”. Based on what we’ve seen from the Toyota product stable, the anonymous gentleman may be on to something.

According to the article, the new ES will grow in size (it’s roughly half a foot shorter than the Buick) and become the quietest car Lexus has ever made. Given that most ES owners wear some kind of digital watch, you won’t even be able to hear anything tick, a la the Rolls-Royce cars of old. The “killer app” here appears to be the inclusion of a hybrid system. The Camry Hybrid is listed by the EPA as returning 40/38 mpg city/highway, but according to the report, the new ES will get “…high 40s on the highway and even better in the city…” Compare that to the Lacrosse eAssist, which gets 25/36 mpg.

With TTAC’s staffers (myself included) having had seat time in the new Camry and the new Lexus GS, we may be able to draw some conclusions regarding the next ES. Jack was suitably impressed with the performance chops of the new GS, but noted that it was liable to lose out in the all important status race. Fortunately for Lexus, the ES customer seems to be cut from a more practical cloth – after all, they are cross shopping against a Buick.

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Best Selling Cars Around The Globe: When Oldsmobile Was Top Of The Class Sun, 30 Oct 2011 11:48:51 +0000

Click here to view the embedded video.

Over the last few weeks we have visited PanamaColombiaChina and Indonesia. But really, I know the post you liked most was when I went back in time to explore America in 1986. Come on, you know it’s true.

Which is why I have more time travel for you this week: let’s go back to 1975, a time when the average house cost $39,000, the average new car $4,250, both inflation and unemployment rates hit 9.2% and a gallon of gas cost an outrageous 44 cents…but most importantly it was the year Jaws was released.

If the idea of going back to these depressing times is not what you need today, that’s ok. I have prepared 160 countries for you to visit in my blog, and I can tell you it is worth the browse, so click away!

“It’s a good feeling to have an Olds around you” the ad said, and a lot of Americans agreed…

The 1975 US ranking I have for you this week is the best-selling American Passenger Cars, so before you ask, no there are no imports – Toyota led the way then apparently but I don’t have any official figures – and there are no trucks – the Ford F-Series only took the lead in 1977 so the best-selling truck would probably have been a Chevrolet then.

America’s favorite car in 1975 was the Oldsmobile Cutlass. Yes, it’s hard to believe that a brand that doesn’t exist anymore today could produce the best-selling model in the entire country then…but it was 36 years ago after all.

The Cutlass is up 8 spots and 20% on 1974 to grab the pole position with 324,610 sales. The Cutlass would be a regular fixture atop the US ranking up until the early eighties.

In second place we find the Ford Granada, a huge success for its first full year of sales in the country at 291,140 units.

The Chevrolet Chevelle is 3rd with 276,206 sales, it has been on the podium for a few years…

…ahead of the Ford Pinto at 271,880 units. This is much lower than the last couple of years, possibly showing that America’s oil crisis-forced love story with the small car is about to end…

The Chevrolet Monte Carlo is 5th with 267,803 sales…

…followed by the Chevrolet Nova is #6 with 256,438 sales…

…and the Plymouth Valiant dropping from 2nd place in 1974 to 7th in 1975.

The other 2 American cars to sell over 200,000 units in 1975 are the Chevrolet Vega and Ford LT D.

Further down the ranking, notice the Dodge Dart in 13th position…

…the Chevrolet Monza up 64 spots to #19

and the Ford Elite up 33 spots to #21.

And now for the golden nugget: the best-selling newcomer in 1975 is the very original/controversial AMC Pacer landing directly in 28th position with 88,641 units sold for its very first year…

Top 30 best-selling American Passenger Cars in 1975

Pos Model Sales 1975
1 Oldsmobile Cutlass 324,610
2 Ford Granada 291,140
3 Chevrolet Chevelle 276,206
4 Ford Pinto 271,880
5 Chevrolet Monte Carlo 267,803
6 Chevrolet Nova 256,438
7 Plymouth Valiant 225,379
8 Chevrolet Vega 212,876
9 Ford LT D 201,180
10 Ford Mustang II 193,273
11 Chevrolet Impala 189,067
12 Buick Century 183,666
13 Dodge Dart 163,639
14 Cadillac DeVille 161,179
15 Ford Maverick 140,645
16 Chrysler Cordoba 140,573
17 Chevrolet Camaro 138,679
18 Chevrolet Caprice 115,812
19 Chevrolet Monza 113,946
20 Plymouth Fury 103,500
21 Ford Elite 96,848
22 AMC Hornet 94,522
23 Pontiac Grand Prix 94,363
24 Buick LeSabre 94,206
25 Buick Electra 225 92,427
26 Mercury Monarch 90,429
27 Pontiac Le Mans 90,418
28 AMC Pacer 88,641
29 Pontiac Firebird 77,607
30 Oldsmobile 98 76,616

If you want more, the 1975 Top 80 best-selling American Passenger Cars Ranking is here.

If you are interested in monthly updates about the best-selling models in the USA see here.

Source of the 1975 average costs is

Source of the 1975 sales figures is German Auto Katalog

Matt Gasnier, based in Sydney, Australia, runs a blog named Best Selling Cars, dedicated to counting cars all over the world.

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