By on April 26, 2017

1968 VW Type II Transporter, Image: © 2017 Forest Casey

Pickup trucks are a stereotypically American product, right up there with blue jeans and barbeque. The best-selling vehicle in America for the past 35 years? Ford F-Series. And the pickup truck defines our needs as a nation, maximizing towing, luggage, and passenger capacities as much as possible at the lowest possible price.

But must a pickup wear an American badge for us to consider it a proper truck?

After seeing innovative trucks like this 1968 VW Type II Transporter, you can’t help but ask, “Why must these be so rare in America?”

(Read More…)

By on March 2, 2017

ktmbull

Much to the chagrin of a couple of generations of small truck enthusiasts on this side of the Atlantic Ocean, the United States got into a bit of a trade tiff with France and Germany over a protectionist tariff the European countries had placed on imports of American chicken in the early 1960s. The result was a 25-percent tariff levied on potato starch, dextrin, brandy, and light trucks imported into the U.S. Brandy was listed to retaliate against the French while the light truck duty targeted commercial versions of the VW Type II.

Due to another trade dispute over a different foodstuff, in this case beef, the Office of the United States Trade Representative (OUSTR) has proposed a 100% tariff on small to medium displacement motorcycles and scooters manufactured in the European Union. Motorcycles and scooters from 50 to 500 cc displacement were tucked in at the end of a long list of beef, pork, and other food products covered under the proposed duties. (Read More…)

By on January 24, 2017

Trabant 601deluxe Universal, Modell 1970, By Deluxe602 at de.wikipedia (Original text : S.M.) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)], from Wikimedia Commons

“Like any good capitalist, I firmly believe that automakers need competition to produce their best and most innovative work.” That’s what my colleague and occasional pal Stef Schrader on Jalopnik wrote yesterday, in a column titled Protectionism Is Only Good If You Love Really Terrible Cars. I doubt neither Stef’s sincerity nor her diligence; she hits all the traditional marks in her piece, from Allegro to Trabant, and she does it with style.

I am not a good capitalist. Not any longer.

For most of my life, I was; I’ve been mostly self-employed since I was 19, and I’ve never asked for help from anybody save for three weeks’ worth of unemployment payments in 1995. I always looked at life as a battle that went to the strongest, and I never felt inadequate in the face of the challenge.

Once I became a father, however, I started wondering about my son’s prospects, and the prospects of his contemporaries. What if they didn’t have the strength, or the luck, that I’ve had? Should they be just tossed aside by the global economy, discarded forever just because they couldn’t win a race to the bottom with seven billion other desperate souls?

If the former president of the Miami University Entrepreneurial Society (yes, guilty as charged) can read Adbusters and start worrying about factory conditions around the globe, perhaps that means everything out there is up for grabs. And it’s worth asking the question: Could a new round of protectionist policies, intelligently conceived and applied, change our lives as drivers, consumers, and workers — for the better?

(Read More…)

By on December 4, 2016

Mercedes-Benz Sprinter 2016

We have, perhaps unfairly, categorized German automakers as far more calculating and efficient than their American counterparts. While there is certainly a case to be made for this positive stereotyping, there are also plenty of examples calling this perceived Germanic precision into question. One such instance is the absolutely ridiculous lengths Mercedes-Benz have been going to avoid the chicken tax on its imported vans. (Read More…)

By on June 29, 2015

Seventh-Generation Toyota Hilux

As key free trade agreements near signing, the chicken tax may soon become a bucket of Kentucky fried goodness. Just don’t hold your breath for a Hilux.

(Read More…)

By on December 15, 2014

15 - 1982 Subaru BRAT Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin Ah, the Subaru BRAT. Just as you can’t find anyone who hates The Ramones, you can’t find anyone who wants to beat on the Subaru BRAT with a baseball bat. As perhaps the best-loved car that shows up in self-service wrecking yards with any regularity, the BRAT always inspires me to whip out my camera when I see a junked example. So far this series, we’ve admired this ’79, this ’79, this ’84, this ’82, and this Sawzall-ized ’86 crypto-BRAT. (Read More…)

By on June 5, 2014

1024px-SubaruBaja

For decades, the formula for a successful pickup design in America has been pretty much the same. Design a simple ladder-frame chassis, drop in the biggest engine you can find, give it a front-engine rear-drive layout with an optional transfer case, and start raking in the money. From time to time, however, manufacturers have tried to swim against the current.

(Read More…)

By on February 5, 2014

15 - 1982 Subaru BRAT Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinWith so many old Subarus in Denver wrecking yards, I do run across the occasional BRAT. We’ve seen this ’79 and this very rare Sawzall Edition ’86 so far in this series, and today we’ll be looking at a well-used ’82 that still has the very rare lawsuit-inducing jumpseats in the back. (Read More…)

By on August 7, 2013

Rooster_Cat

I come to praise the chicken tax, not to bury it. In exchange for the short-term consequence of a few people paying too much for Toyota trucks with insta-rust beds, this country managed to acquire a pretty substantial infrastructure to build “foreign” automobiles while still providing jobs to Americans. It even helped the Japanese automakers, who managed to survive the 1985/1986 spike in the yen without abandoning the US market because they were largely in the process of moving production to the Southern states.

In recent years, however, the 25% tariff has come to be ever-so-slightly irrelevant, primarily affecting buyers of the Ford Transit Connect who can’t figure out why there are wrench marks on the floor of their brand-new cargo vans. And now it might be gone for good.

(Read More…)

By on June 3, 2013

ge5547549213459505029

Every so often, the same tired rumor will pop up again, like a particularly resilient pimple that habitually reappears in the same conspicuous spot. Thanks to the incessant hunger for clicks among auto websites, these rumors refuse to die, no matter how asinine they are. How many times have you seen a “BREAKING” or “EXCLUSIVE” story on the next Toyota Supra or some absurd BS fabrication regarding a diesel Mazda MX-5?

(Read More…)

By on March 18, 2013

 

It’s not just the UAW that is upset about free trade agreements. The Koreans are likewise. The offices of the Korea Automobile Importers and Distributors Association were raided by investigators of the country’s Fair Trade Commission, the Financial Times reports. The agency alleges that BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Volkswagen and Toyota Motor were involved in price collusion. (Read More…)

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