Tag: Editorials

By on June 30, 2011

The controversy over red light cameras, once relegated to websites like TTAC, thenewspaper.com, motorists.org and highwayrobbery.net, is hitting the mainstream media thanks to a new study by the IIHS [PDF here]. The study used the following methodology:

Telephone surveys were conducted with 3,111 drivers in 14 large cities (population greater than 200,000) with long-standing red light camera programs and 300 drivers in Houston, using random samples of landline and cellphone numbers. For analyses combining responses from the 14 cities, cases were weighted to reflect each city’s share of the total population for the 14 cities.

And what did they find?

Among drivers in the 14 cities with red light camera programs, two-thirds favor the use of cameras for red light enforcement, and 42 percent strongly favor it. The chief reasons for opposing cameras were the perceptions that cameras make mistakes and that the motivation for installing them is revenue, not safety. Forty-one percent of drivers favor using cameras to enforce right-turn-on-red violations. Nearly 9 in 10 drivers were aware of the camera enforcement programs in their cities, and 59 percent of these drivers believe the cameras have made intersections safer. Almost half know someone who received a red light camera citation and 17 percent had received at least one ticket themselves. When compared with drivers in the 14 cities with camera programs, the percentage of drivers in Houston who strongly favored enforcement was about the same (45 percent), but strong opposition was higher in Houston than in the other cities (28 percent versus 18 percent).

Sounds like those red light cameras are pretty great after all, doesn’t it? That’s certainly the IIHS’s takeaway…
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By on June 25, 2011

General Motors CEO Dan Akerson set off something of a firestorm a few weeks ago, when he said, in response to a question about forthcoming CAFE increases:

You know what I’d rather have them do — this will make my Republican friends puke — as gas is going to go down here now, we ought to just slap a 50-cent or a dollar tax on a gallon of gas.

Predictably, populists and economic alarmists of all stripes took great umbrage at Akerson’s candor, questioning his leadership of GM as well as his perspective on the shaky US economy. But Akerson is not alone in his support of some form of gas-tax increase. Bob Lutz and  Tom Friedman (an odd couple right there, if ever there was one) agree with him. Edmunds CEO Jeremy Anwyl defended Akerson and even suggested a $2/gallon tax earlier this year. Bill Ford and  AutoNation’s Mike Jackson are of the same mind as now-retired Republican Senator George Voinovich on the issue. And yet, inside the Beltway, the subject tends to draw a chuckle and a roll of the eyes. Everyone wants it, but nobody wants it.

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By on June 8, 2011

Editor’s note: Ladies and gentlemen, for one night only, it’s the return of Curbside Classics to TTAC. You can catch Paul Niedermeyer’s work (along with contributions from an ever expanding crew of TTAC commenters and more) on a regular basis at the new Curbside Classics site. But this piece? It just had to be on TTAC.

There’s a big difference between creating and re-creating. The proto-hot rodders of yore scoured the junk yards for new solutions, not to replicate. The competition was as much in creativity as it was pure speed. Much of that has given way to endless replication, whether it’s a perfect restoration or a 1000 hp resto-mod. But creative juices are irrepressible, and they were certainly at work here. Want a daily driver Edsel, but not its 1950′s fuel-gulping ways? The solution was just a $200 junkyard engine away. But it had to be imagined first. Now that’s creativity, and a harbinger of the future. Which is exactly what the old car hobby needs: a new model, like this “Eco-Boost” Edsel.

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By on June 1, 2011

Mark Modica, a former Saturn dealer GM bondholder, has leveraged his financial loss at the hands of the government bailout into a blogging position at the National Legal and Policy Center, a conservative nonprofit that “promotes ethics in public life through research, investigation, education and legal action.” At the NLPC, Modica focuses on what he believes to be corruption surrounding the auto bailout, and has written a series of anti-GM posts that make TTAC look like a Detroit hometown newspaper (TTAC “bias police,” take note). Most recently, Modica has caught the attention of the auto media, including Automobile Magazine and Jalopnik, with a series of posts accusing Chevy dealers of “scamming” taxpayers by claiming the Volt’s $7,500 tax credit and then selling Volts as used cars. TTAC welcomes anyone seeking to cast more light on the bailout, but unfortunately, Modica’s attacks are too focused on making GM look bad and not focused enough on providing relevant information to the American people. Let’s take a look and see why…

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By on May 29, 2011

Tank testing at General Motors’ Milford Proving Grounds

To commemorate Memorial Day here in the US, we’re taking a look at how the American auto industry was mobilized into war production for World War Two. Because that mobilization was so extensive, the conversion to military production so complete, a blog post by it’s very nature cannot really do the subject justice. This is only the most cursory review of the topic, which truly deserves a book length treatment. As a matter of fact, historian Arthur Herman is currently working on a book about the “arsenal of democracy”, American industry during the war.

Herman will have a lot of material to work with.Today we’ll be looking at the role of the Big Three automakers in war production, starting with General Motors. (Read More…)

By on May 29, 2011

Chrysler A57 Multibank 30 cylinder Sherman tank engine made from five inline sixes

Memorial Day is a time set aside to remember those who gave their lives in military service to the United States. Today, even as we are fighting two wars and have men and women in harms way in yet other places, though, a relatively small fraction of Americans serve in the military. Few civilians, except military families, understand the sacrifices necessary to protect our country. There was a time, though, when the military conflict was genuinely existential and just about every able bodied man was drafted or enlisted, while virtually the entire civilian population was directly involved in the war effort, either through their jobs in military production, or more personally, because just about everything was rationed giving the military a higher priority for things like vehicles, tires, fuel and food. With the dawn of total war, the plants and proving grounds of Detroit became a new kind of battlefield, in which the tools of economic prosperity were turned into munitions and machines that would change the course of history.

(Read More…)

By on May 23, 2011

In the last time we heard from Better Place – a little less than two months ago – we’ve witnessed the unfolding of the company’s first functional battery swap station. And yet we were left with one big question mark hovering over the entire project: the price for the end customer.

This question is particularly crucial for the Israeli market, where the vast majority of people owns a car and uses it for their daily commutes and where gas prices are amongst the highest in the world – about $8.3 per gallon. And while the company has already unveiled its prices for the Danish market, it hasn’t revealed the price of the car and monthly subscription for the Israeli market – until now.

(Read More…)

By on May 20, 2011

While the political battle lines over increasing CAFE standards are being drawn in Washington, with the industry taking on both environmentalists and itself, a line of analysis that’s been around since 2009 is exacerbating the industry’s internal divisions over the impact of CAFE increases. A two-year-old University of Michigan study has been exhumed and expanded upon in a new CitiGroup report which makes a bold claim: CAFE will actually improve both sales and profits for the industry. And with Detroit taking the lead in resisting CAFE increases, one might think that the industry’s “turncoats” like Toyota and Hyundai, who have made marketing-led decisions to support CAFE increases, would be the main beneficiaries of these reports. Not so. According to this battle-line-confounding analysis, the biggest beneficiary of CAFE increases will be… Detroit. Madness you say? You may well be right…

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By on May 1, 2011

George Orwell’s warning, that “the first victim of war is the truth,” apparently applies equally to trade wars. On Friday, Senators Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow (both D-MI) wrote the United States Trade Representative to express their concern over “reported draft regulations” of China’s New Energy Vehicle plan, noting

We are concerned that these draft regulations continue China’s long history of breaking international trade rules.

Given that the ongoing low-level trade war between the US and China, this was a predictable bit of saber-rattling. But if Levin and Stabenow’s political motivations are easy to understand, the logic that leads them to believe China’s New Energy Vehicle plan is a violation of international trade rules is not. Meanwhile, neither the Senators nor the USTR appear not to have heard about another, more serious possible trade issue arising from China’s headlong dash towards electric vehicles. Sounds like a job for The Truth About Cars…

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By on April 19, 2011

With GM’s share price slipping below $30, the cries are going up again around the internet about the government’s stake in the bailed-out automaker. Thus far the Treasury has remained mum on its exit strategy, only indicating that it would emphasize speed rather than maximum return as it charted the course for its sell-off. But now, Reuters reports that “a big chunk” of the government’s 33% remaining stake in GM could be sold “in the summer or fall.” With the government’s shares “locked up” until May 22, that could mean the government is bailing as quickly as possible at a time when GM’s stock is hitting post-bankruptcy lows, and its CEO offers little in the way of explanations beyond blaming the Japanese tsunami and rising fuel prices. The Wall Street Journal figures taxpayers would lose $11b on its “investment” in GM equity if the government sold at today’s prices (the stock must hit $53 for break-even), but reports that political motivations outweigh fiscal considerations. The White House does not want “Government Motors” to be an issue in the next election.

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By on March 30, 2011

Back in 1976, the Italian automaker Fiat had been badly battered by a global energy crisis and the resulting malaise infecting the global auto industry. In what Time Magazine described at the time as “a devastatingly ironic example of petropower,” Col. Muammar Gaddafi instructed his Libyan Arab Foreign Bank to invest some $415m into the Italian automaker, giving it a stake that would eventually grow to some 14 percent of the firm’s equity.

By 1986, Fiat’s Libyan stakeholders were becoming more trouble than they were worth. In the wake of the Lockerbie bombings, the US introduced sanctions on Libya, and Fiat’s Libyan connection left its attempts to bid for US military contracts (particularly those related to Ronald Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative) dead on arrival. As a result, Fiat and its shareholders bought back the entire 14 percent Libyan stake in the firm, presenting the Libyan Arab Foreign Bank-controlled Banca UBAE with a $3.1b check. And, according to what a Fiat spokesperson told us yesterday, that is where the story ends. But thanks to the now-ubiquitous Wikileaks, we have found that this story may in fact go farther than that. In fact, as the evidence stands right now, either the US State Department is working with bad information (which major news sources have yet to correct), or Fiat is lying about its ties to the embattled Gaddafi regime.

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By on March 9, 2011

So, where were we?

I’d planned a road trip through West Virginia with my best friend, both of our fathers, and two Mazda RX-8s. A little over an hour in, on the way to meet the others, my father had sideswiped a tree, totaling his car. After exploring various options, I’d decided that we could and should continue on in the wrecked car. Around 2 PM Trey and his father, the judge, arrived at the revised rendezvous point in their car. The “real trip” could finally begin.

(Read More…)

By on February 8, 2011

[Ed: With today’s news of NHTSA’s investigation results, we thought we’d look back at TTAC’s coverage of the Toyota Unintended Acceleration scandal.]

The Toyota Unintended Acceleration Scandal of 2010 was a curious beastie of a media phenomenon. Shortly after I started writing for TTAC, NHTSA opened an investigation into Toyota Tacomas because, as the Center for Auto Safety’s Clarence Ditlow put it,

If there were truly human error, there would be a proportional distribution across models. It’s very difficult to explain how some makes and models have higher numbers of complaints than others absent some flaw in the vehicle.

Fresh as I was to writing about the world of cars, I was sure I had the story dead to rights. I had seen this movie before, when my father told me his epic Parnelli Jones Unintended Acceleration story. Dad had even killed the the family pickup’s engine at a traffic light to prove it… and I knew how bad the brakes in the old Ford were (but that’s another story). Absent a better explanation than mere statistical likelihood, I knew there was only one cause for this problem. With a level of confidence that seems totally at odds with subsequent events, I concluded by suggesting that

the Detroit Free Press and Motor Trend blog, are trying to resuscitate the [Audi 5000] media frenzy, only this time Toyota’s to blame for people mistaking the accelerator for their brake pedal… If a TTAC reader out there has a Tacoma, perhaps they would do us the honor of standing on the brakes while mashing the accelerator for a few seconds. This should prove fairly simply that “unintended acceleration” is possible only when you are not actually on the brakes.

It was that simple… wasn’t it?

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By on January 13, 2011

In recent years the organizers of the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) have been especially eager to demonstrate that Detroit’s show is still relevant. Yet they crammed every OEM press conference save Volvo’s into a single day, leaving the second day for Li-ion Motors Corp., Mach 7 Motor Sports, and such. In years past there were two-and-a-half days of manufacturer press conferences, with little filler. Maybe next year everything will be back to normal?

(Read More…)

By on January 6, 2011

GM and its Korean battery partner LG Chem have signed licensing agreements with the Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory, giving the two firms access to Argonne’s proprietary lithium and manganese-rich metal oxide mix for use in lithium battery cell cathodes. The material will need “several years of testing” according to The General, but could extend battery life, increase charging voltages and storage, and make Li-ion cells safer. Energy Secretary Stephen Chu says GM’s agreement with the publicly-funded lab

gives General Motors the ability to use cutting-edge battery technology throughout its supply chain. The licensing of this technology will also spur the renewal of the American battery industry, creating hundreds of new jobs where they are needed most.

But that’s not quite the whole story. According to press releases, GM’s deal with Argonne allows the automaker to

to use Argonne’s patented composite cathode material to make advanced lithium-ion batteries

But LG Chem’s agreement allows the Korean firm

to make and use Argonne’s patented cathode material technology in lithium-ion battery cells

In short, a publicly-funded lab has licensed technology in a way that appears to deepen the (partially) government-owned automaker’s dependence on a foreign firm. Confused? So is the mainstream media. And so, to some extent, are we.

(Read More…)

Recent Comments

  • PenguinBoy: Great writing, as usual from Jack. The closing paragraph of this article reminds me of a talk your clip...
  • JustPassinThru: Those are to meet government diktats. There wasn’t a crying need for aluminum trucks and there...
  • DeadWeight: I genuinely despise both political parties in our corporate-controlled oligopoly, duopoly system of...
  • JustPassinThru: “You do realize that almost anybody who has attended college or business school probably had to...
  • DenverMike: I did re read it. You speak with a fork beak.

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