The Truth About Cars » big three The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Sun, 27 Jul 2014 14:03:49 +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 » big three The Truth About Caroline: She Was (Not) An American (Car) Girl Tue, 03 Dec 2013 15:45:38 +0000 Image courtesy CorvetteBlogger

The saying, “Men are from Mars and women are Venus”, embodies more truth than one may realize. It is no secret that men and women have had differences in matters of opinion ever since the beginning of time. We are all familiar with the story of Adam and Eve. Here we are, X versus Y, still at odds on well… EVERYTHING!

It’s no different today when we take a look at the automotive industry. When you look at men and women on the road today, you will notice a BIG difference in automotive choices. Speaking from a woman’s perspective I can honestly say, I’m not sure if I will ever understand the thought process of a man’s choice of car. However, I believe it’s fair to say that men probably have no clue what we’re thinking when we decide on a vehicle as well.

Upon hearing that I was writing for a car blog, a female friend of mine remarked that you don’t see many women of any age driving American made cars nowadays.

She’s right. It’s the kind of thing you don’t notice until someone points it out. But why is that so? Well, you could argue that a woman’s thought process is very basic: We want something that is catchy, cute, and affordable. We want a car to be dependable and require very little maintenance. Time management is important; all we really want is to get from point A to point B. But it helps matters if we look chic while doing so. When we drive a vehicle we want it to be effortless. We just want it to work-we don’t have time for anything above and beyond the manufacturer’s scheduled maintenance. And American cars, whether deserved or not, don’t have nearly the reputation for reliability that Japanese makes do.

Let’s face it, in a woman’s world, we become distracted easily and day to day life can catch up to us and take over at any moment. We have so much on our minds that we don’t want to think of how to drive a vehicle, we just want to drive. The feeling a young woman can obtain in her car can be sublime. Driving in silence, abandoning all thoughts, giving in and becoming one with the road is essentially bliss to us. To casually drive and lose ourselves in the nothingness of the terrain for just 10 minutes is priceless freedom because this could be the only 10 minutes of peace we get all day. Maybe it’s the time between the moment we leave the hustle and bustle of the office and the time we pick up our kids from daycare and begin the nightly parenting routine. A car that is carefree and uncomplicated is what we seek.

When I envision myself in the perfect vehicle of my choice I picture a Mini Cooper, or an Acura RSX, or maybe a VW Eos. Most surprisingly, I picture the Hyundai Elantra; it’s the most efficient all the way around. Fundamentally it seems to stand out over the rest; it is remarkably affordable, low cost maintenance, great gas mileage, stylish, and easy to drive. It’s truly remarkable how the perception of the Elantra, specifically, and Hyundai, in general, has evolved in the last ten years with women. We’ve gone from the “wouldn’t be caught dead in this shitbox” 2001 model to the 2014 that is arguably the most highly regarded amongst Gen Y women in the class.

When I started to really analyze the stereotypically “American” cars, I also noticed their masculinity and bulkiness; man cars to do man things, definitely geared for the typical male buyer. If you consider the quintessential Amercian automobiles available today, what comes to mind first? Maybe it’s the Chevrolet Corvette, or maybe the Dodge Charger, and of course, we cannot forget the Ford F-150 (which was named by as the most American vehicle this year). While all the vehicles I mentioned above are exceptional, I do not picture a woman driving any one of them. These are rugged, able-bodied vehicles. Add a rugged man to go with that rugged truck…YES PLEASE! But the thought of me behind the wheel of any of these is, frankly, comical, at best and disastrous, at worst. When I think American cars, I don’t think of cars in the A and B segments. And that’s a problem.

Here’s the issue: GM, Ford, and Chrysler all have good, solid efforts in the $20K and under segment. The Fiesta, Focus, Spark, Sonic, and Dart are largely solid efforts. But I hate their brands, and so do all of my friends. Millennial women LOVE brands. We think Apple is ah-may-zing. When it comes to cars, we rank BMW, Mercedes-Benz, and Audi among our favorite luxury brands, period, right up there with Prada and Marc Jacobs. We trust Honda and Toyota like we trust our favorite brands of tampons. Chevy? Ford? Dodge? You don’t register.

It’s going to take quite a long time and quite a bit of brand equity building for the Big Three to get Gen Y women on their side. Remember the original Fiesta Movement? It was the ill-fated and poorly executed attempt to get women like me to find the Fiesta desirable by putting it in the hands of people like Jen Friel. Seriously. It helped them sell approximately zero Fiestas. Since it was such an epic failure the first time, Ford is, of course, trying again and this go round they’ve given Fiestas to people like Trevor Bayne. The last thing Ford needs is for me to associate the Fiesta with NASCAR fans. I see enough hillbillies driving around with #88 flags on their trucks. Give me somebody like Zooey Deschanel, somebody that I can identify with.

In the long run, the women of Gen Y hold the future of automakers in our well-manicured hands. We will make the buying decisions on the family sedans in the next ten years. We’ll be deciding which minivan to buy (shudder) when the soccer team needs a ride. And we’ll be deciding which brands to trust our sixteen-year old daughter’s life to when she gets behind the wheel of her first car.

So make us like you, Big Three. Give us a reason to switch. Make us feel like our girlfriends won’t think we’re stupid for picking you. Because, right now, you’re losing us. It’s a game you just can’t afford to lose.

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QOTD: Your Favorite Domestic Sleepers Thu, 20 Dec 2012 14:00:10 +0000

Domestic cars don’t get enough attention on TTAC, but we can also be prone to heaping too much praise on particular examples; I may be the lone dissenting voice on the roster that does not swear a blood oath to the Panther. The W-Body Impala, which is set to go into Panther-like fleet-only production until mid-2014, is similarly polarizing. Some adore it, some despise it while others reflexively disdain it due to the effusive praise heaped upon it.

Personally, I think the later 3.6L cars are fantastic bargains, and even better sleepers. The “High Feature V6″ is a gem, even when hooked up to GM’s pokey 6-speed automatic. The interior and trunk are both cavernous and the massive depreciation occuring within 12 months of their purchase date makes them a compelling used car choice.

From the Blue Oval, my pick would be the Flex Ecoboost. The boosted box-on-wheels is hardly the value proposition that the Impala represents, but it’s pretty hard to argue with a family wagon capable of running high-13s in the quarter mile. The relative rarity of the Flex makes it even sweeter.

Lastly, the Pentastar brand has a wealth of options. Any of the Pentastar cars could be viable candidates. How about a Pentastar powered Dodge Avenger or Chrysler 200? The 6.4 second 0-60 sprint is more than class competitive. Those who want a bit more flash could opt for the V8 powered Chrysler 300C (not the 300S or Varvatos Edition), but my own pick would be the redneck-special Ram Express, driven over some jagged rocks to ensure maximum damage to the mufflers.

Feel free to nominate your favorite domestic sleepers from the past or present. Having been before slightly before the Internet, I delight in hearing my Dad and Uncles tell stories about their old Satellites that they’d race up and down the winding streets of Montreal, or the 440-powered New Yorker that left frequent rubber deposits at every intersection. First person to say “LT1 Roadmaster” loses the game.

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CAW, Auto Makers, Kick Off Talks Thu, 16 Aug 2012 17:11:06 +0000

The Canadian Auto Workers and the Big Three have kicked off labor talks, with the CAW taking a hard line against concessions – a position that some say, could lead to a lack of future in investment in Canadian auto manufacturing.

While the CAW wants guaranteed wage and cost of living increases, the automakers want the CAW to accept a deal similar to what the UAW agreed on; no wage or living cost increases, but workers will be involved in a profit-sharing agreement.

One of TTAC’s Big Three sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said that unions are reluctant to accept the profit-sharing agreement because they are concerned that their efforts at building a high quality car could be bungled by a poor decision made by the marketing team, and the product could fail. In that situation, profit-sharing wouldn’t be much of a help.

The CAW made a number of concessions to automakers during the 2008-2009 negotiations, which occured in the thick of the bailout. The union is hoping to gain some ground over what was lost in previous negotiations, and is demanding that auto makers stop asking for concessions from the workers.

Unfortunately, the CAW is in an especially poor bargaining position; a strong Canadian dollar, high labor costs and a willingness by automakers to close Canadian plants doesn’t give CAW President Ken Lewenza much leverage in terms of negotiating a deal with the auto makers. And botched negotiations could have drastic consequences for the future of Canada’s auto manufacturing sector.

University of Windsor professor Tony Faria, an auto industry expert, told CBC News

“I think if the CAW pushes too hard, we’re going to see no new investment in Ontario from the Detroit 3, if they can work out a deal that is more satisfactory to both sides then I think there’s a chance we can get investment here and retain, and maybe grow some jobs.”


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Chart Of The Day: Channel Stuffing Bonanza Wed, 25 Jul 2012 15:15:07 +0000

Today’s Chart comes from finance blog Zero Hedge, which has taken a periodic interest in General Motors channel stuffing endeavors. While we don’t normally report on stock prices here at TTAC, this one is worth mentioning.

The chart, using an inverted axis, shows the relationship between GM’s month-end inventory levels, and their post-IPO share price. The lower it goes, the more inventory The General seems to have.

Channel stuffing is an addiction that GM is unwilling to get help for, and it’s always the same nasty habit of loading up dealers with big full-size trucks and SUVs (to the tune of 130 day supply levels, or more), even though that’s what got them in to the whole bankruptcy mess in the first place. But that’s ok, because their sales numbers look great, even if their share price is in the toilet.

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A Month Before Talks, Automakers Tell Canadian Auto Workers To Forget About Wage Increases Thu, 07 Jun 2012 14:28:53 +0000

The Big Three sent letters to the Canadian Auto Workers union Wednesday, asking them to forgo a small wage increase as a means of keeping Canadian plants competitive.

The wage hike, known as the Cost of Living Adjustment (or COLA), and represents the first wage increase since 2007. Though it only adds 28 cents to the normal $32 an hour wage, the automakers warn that automatic wage increases like COLA could reduce the competitiveness of Canadian plants, and have suggested lump sum payments and a pay structure tied to company profits.

Talks between the CAW and the Big Three start in July, with some observers suggesting that the unions and the automakers have a long way to go before reaching any kind of common ground. The Big Three are looking to keep their fixed costs in check, with hourly labor costs representing one of the areas that automakers are seeking to keep under control. As a precondition for bailout money from the Ontario and Canadian federal governments, the CAW agreed to freeze COLA as well as their base wage rates until the end of the contract terms signed under the bailout period.

A letter to the CAW from Ford suggested that Canadian plants were operating at a $15 an hour disparity compared to the all-in hourly labor costs at U.S. plants, and a COLA increase would bring that gap to $30. A Chrysler rep said that their plants operated at a $10 disadvantage, while COLA would add another $4.80. CAW President Ken Lewenza dismissed the $30 disparity at Ford as “absolutely ridiculous”. A think tank cited by the Globe and Mail claims that Chrysler has the lowest labor costs in the U.S., at $52 while Ford’s are the highest at $58.

While the CAW has often decried a “race to the bottom” as far as wages go for Canadian workers, the CAW and Canadian plants are in a very weak position, with higher costs and a strong dollar making Canadian plants an increasingly unattractive proposition. With two-tier wages in the US offering automakers the chance to build cars at plants where workers are pay $14 an hour rather than $32, as well as being able to build them in the United States, taking a combative stance against the automakers may not get the CAW too far in accomplishing their goals. At this point, it seems as if Ontario needs the auto plants more than the OEMs need Ontario. A Member of Parliament for the Windsor, Ontario district that is home to many auto workers recently criticized the CAW’s policies as being unrealistic and in danger of sending manufacturing jobs back to America.



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GM’s Historically Inaccurate “Woodward Avenue” Testing Schedule for ZL1 Yields 11 Second Quarter Mile Thu, 10 May 2012 16:49:58 +0000
Car companies can go on about their “heritage”. Though we know it’s at least partly hype, some of that heritage is verifiable history and as car enthusiasts it can tug at our automotive heartstrings. Still, it’s very easy to get cynical when you see how casually companies can be with history when it comes to promoting their products.

Chevy has announced that a stock ZL1 Camaro has joined the “11 second club”, with a quarter-mile run of 11.96 seconds and a trap speed of 117 MPH. That’s with stock Goodyear Eagle F1 Supercar G:2  tires. You’ll have to consider that NHRA sanctioned tracks require a substantial roll cage for sub 11.5 sec runs if you’re thinking of running the ZL1 with drag radials. If you do, the ZL1′s already been modified to accept today’s large rims fitted with drag radials, which have a taller sidewall than the G-2s do. Though the new ZL1′s suspension has also been engineered to make it a credible track car with handling tuned for road courses, lapping VIR in under 3 minutes, the ZL1′s muscle car era namesake was a factory built drag racer with a racing all aluminum big block engine. Chevy knows that some new ZL1 owners will be more concerned with ETs and reaction times than with g forces and how well the car can cope with Laguna’s Corkscrew, so attention was made to the car’s drag strip capabilities. The contemporary ZL1′s dual personality shows up in marketing as well, with Chevy currently running two ZL1 commercials, one about the car’s cornering abilities on the track and one about developing the ZL1′s launch control for the strip.

Click here to view the embedded video.

Part of that development, it turns out, was using something Chevy engineers tabbed the “Woodward Avenue Schedule”. The testing schedule was named after the Detroit area’s famous cruising strip that hosted legendary speed competitions back when factory massaged street racers like the Mopar “Silver Bullet” or one of Jim Wanger’s GTO buff book test ringers ruled Woodward.

To test the chassis and suspension components to ensure they were up to repeated hard-start launches typical at the drag strip, engineers subjected the ZL1 to the grueling “Woodward Avenue Schedule” at the GM Milford Proving Ground.

Named for the famous cruising route that cuts north through Detroit’s suburbs and has been the venue for untold thousands of unofficial launch capability demonstrations since the 1960s, each test cycle is a hard-launch, standing-start drag race up to 100 mph. The ZL1 was subjected to 1,000 test cycles before its driveline was stamped “approved”.

“The Woodward Avenue Schedule was a really brutal test, but it told us the Camaro ZL1 would live up to the way we knew our customers would drive it on the track.”

I’m okay with appealing to hot rodder’s sense of history and I’m an unashamed Detroit booster, so I have nothing against naming their test schedule for Woodward. The implicit reference to street racing also shows that a hint of the outlaw mentality that bred the Silver Bullet and it’s competitors may still be alive at the major automakers. The problem is that the “Woodward Avenue Schedule” is historically inaccurate. While street racing in most of America usually has involved a “hard-launch, standing-start drag race” using a traffic light or an arm-drop to replace a drag strip’s “Christmas tree” lights, Woodward’s contribution to street racing culture back in the day wasn’t the standing-start – it was the rolling start.

Robert Genet, in his book Woodward Avenue: Cruising the Legendary Strip,  points out that most of the hard racing on Woodward took place in Oakland County, north of Maple, where Woodward gets less congested and police patrols were (and are) less frequent. With Woodward’s synchronized traffic lights, you could be assured of a number of opportunities to race against the same opponent. The racing on North Woodward was so serious that some wag had decals made up that said North Woodward Timing Association which looked a lot like the NHRA logo, only instead of silhouettes of a dragster rail and a hot rod, the NWTA stickers had images of a police car chasing, oddly enough, a Studebaker Avanti. Actually, not that oddly because an Avanti with the factory supercharged R3 engine set a record for production car speed in the early 1960s.

Another point that Genet stresses is that unlike in other parts of the country or even elsewhere in the Detroit area (as on Gratiot on the east side) where street racers used a standing start, either with an arm drop or a green light, racing on Woodward meant a rolling start. That was easier on the cars’ drivetrains. Remember, while California hot rodders preferred old roadsters, bucket Model Ts and 1930s Fords, in the early day Detroit’s contribution to ’60s car culture, the muscle car, was usually some kind of hardtop sedan with a big motor. Also, street racing is usually a pursuit of the young, and let’s face it, most kids who drive are driving Mom or Dad’s car. If you’re going to race your their family’s car you don’t want to tell Dad that you broke an axle on Mom’s station wagon. Those wagons and sedans could be fast, Dad may have ordered the big V8 and a quad carb or two, but getting that mass moving could be hard on the drivetrain, so Woodward racers did it with rolling starts. At a red light, two drivers would agree to drag race and then negotiate a 30 mph roll, a 40 mph roll etc. They’d get to the agreed speed, someone would yell go, and the race would be on. They’d stop at the next light, and start all over.

Last summer, a couple of days before the Woodward Dream Cruise, I saw something that reminded me of how Genet described street racing and cruising on north Woodward. It was a beautiful summer night and I had just dropped my mom off at my aunt’s house because the two of them were leaving for a family wedding early in the morning. My aunt lives up in Bloomfield Hills and the shortest route meant taking Woodward.

I dropped my mom off. While driving south on Woodward, I could hear some serious exhaust notes up ahead of me. When I got closer I could see that the two cars were a heavily tuned Acura Integra, with a fartcan exhaust and gauges up and down the A-pillar, and a mid ’60s Ford Fairlane with some serious rubber, maybe 10″ slicks, in the back. They were about a hundred feet in front of me, one in the lane to my right, the other in the lane to my left and as we all drove south they kept surging forward, first one, then the other, as if they were saying “You wanna go? You wanna go?” After reading Genet’s account of rolling starts along the same general stretch of Woodward, I had to laugh about it. There were no Acuras when that Fairlane first prowled north Woodward looking for a race but the more things change…

So it’s cool that Chevy is paying tribute to Woodward, but back in the day, if Detroit area street racers wanted to subject their cars to standing-start drag races, they’d either head east to Gratiot or south to Motor City Dragway at Sibley & Dix.

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 for reading – RJS

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