The Truth About Cars » ICE http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Mon, 28 Jul 2014 12:01:32 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.1 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 editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (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 » ICE http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com Piston Slap: Verboseness and The Brief Commute http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/826138/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/826138/#comments Wed, 21 May 2014 11:43:58 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=826138

Wade writes:

Hey Sajeev,

This is going to take while to get to the point. For those with logophobia, skip to the last paragraph. Those people who think How I Met Your Mother was too rushed, keep reading. Sajeev, you have to keep reading too. You do say to “spare no details”. (Fantastic. – SM)

I was laid off in early 2011. That was because my specific job was transferred to the plant in Mexico. Due to the Trade Act of 1974, this qualified me for several benefits. The most relevant benefit to my question would be the training program. If you can prove that a training program would increase your employability and that there is a projected demand for workers with that training, the government will pay for it. Since I was laid of in Las Vegas and unemployment was well into the double digits, I thought for a bit and decided to go with an Aviation Maintenance Technician program. There wasn’t an approved program in Nevada at the time, so I found the program at Midland College in Midland Texas.

At the time, my wife and I owned a 2000 BMW 323i and a 2001 Pontiac Aztek. Since housing was scarce in Midland, we decide to purchase a FEMA trailer. Neither of our vehicles could tow such a trailer, so we sold the Aztek and bought a 1989 Ford F250 cheap because the dealer was just about to sent it to auction as he couldn’t manage to sell it. In the week between buying the pickup and loading up the crap we decided we had to keep, I replaced the faulty alternator harness and did a few other simple maintenance tasks. We headed out of Las Vegas heading for Dallas to pick up the trailer and drop our crap off at a storage lot in Midland. All went well until I blew a rear tire in Eastern Arizona. We lost a day since it blew 30 minutes after the nearest tire shop had closed for the day. It even hauled the FEMA trailer with no issues.

I don’t especially like pickups unless they are a 1960 to 1966 Chevrolet. Those truck seem to be the last ones with character. Anymore, you can lop off the portions of a pickup ahead of the front wheels and behind the rear wheels and you can’t tell the difference from one to another. But the F250 had a ZF 5 speed manual and I was starting to be impressed. The more I drove it, the more I liked it. I started school and all was well until a moron in a new Toyota Tundra decided that he had to dart across 4 lanes of traffic to avoid having to wait for the semi in the turn lane to get by. I was hidden from his view on the other side of semi accelerating in lanes the semi was vacating. The F250 was killed on impact and I think I cracked a rib. I did get 3x what I paid for the truck just 4 months earlier.

I took the insurance money and again found an idiot at a dealership. This one had a 1st gen Honda Insight with battery pack issues. He had been told by his buddy at a Honda dealership that it was out of warranty and to replace the pack would be about $5000. I did my own research and found that it was still within the extended service letter age and mileage range and thus paid less then half of blue book. After which I took it down to the local Honda dealership and had them replace the battery at their cost.

I thoroughly enjoyed that little Insight. I wasn’t your typical hybrid driver. Green means go so when it lit up, I nailed the throttle. I only lightly braked for corners. And still I got 40 MPG. Soon I was nearing the end of my training program and started to look for work. Since I didn’t want to work for an standard airline, it seemed that I would end up either in the panhandle of Alaska working on floatplanes or down on the Gulf Coast working on offshore helicopters. Both would require moving the trailer and that Insight just wasn’t going to cut it. My wife had decided that the BMW was too had to climb in and out of on a daily basis and so was had traded it off for a 2007 Suzuki Grand Vitara. That also wasn’t going to move the FEMA trailer. So we began to look for pickups, again.

Now back in 2005, Hurricane Katrina had chased out of Long Beach Mississippi and temporarily up to Tunica in my 1984 BMW 528e. My wife’s work on a helpdesk for a large casino chain had offered us shelter in one of the casino hotels there so she could keep working for them. After a short time, they offered her a position in their Memphis office or the casinos in Las Vegas. Having spent a bit of time in the Memphis area, we decided to go for Las Vegas. We had already accumulated more crap then could fit into the BMW, so we went looking for a cheap truck and trailer. A couple days before we left, we found a Ford Bronco II from a dealer who had repo’d it and it was just out of it’s waiting period and eligible for sale. After buying it, found some knucklehead had run the trailer wiring between two metal panels and that had shorted out the brake lights. Got that fixed, bought the last small trailer in Memphis, loaded up out crap and we headed out. In the middle of the night, while going through the mountains of New Mexico in I40, one of the CV joints gave up. That cost us a couple days in a motel as the local mechanic (who was a retired Ford service tech) replaced the driveshaft.

I had to tell you that little flashback so you would under stand this next part.

So having had moved twice using trucks bought within a week of the move, my wife started to push me to find us a truck early so we could take our time getting things fixed before entrusting it with all our worldly possessions including our house. Finding a medium duty truck for sale in West Texas isn’t hard, they make up 50% of the vehicles on the road. The hard part is finding one that doesn’t have over 200,000 miles, half of which weren’t spent on a maintained road. Finally managed it and traded off the Insight for a 2004 Ford F250 with the 6.0 diesel 2 months before the end of classes and the deadline for moving. A month later I had found my 1st job as an A&P. 50 miles away from school and home. 2 months after starting work, I was tired of driving that truck. It was just a cold hunk of steel barrelling down the road at 65 MPH (any faster and the MPGs go down in a hurry). 50 miles in the morning, 50 miles in the afternoon, up and down flat and straight roads. And all it was doing was hauling my bored ass.

I needed to find me something different. I decided I needed something RWD and a manual. Didn’t really matter to me what it was as long as it wasn’t a pickup or an SUV. I’ve had my fill of those. I looked for several months and finally scooped up an RX8 at a local Subaru dealership. They had just taken it in trade. I got an extended warranty on the driveline instead of getting the compressions checked. My mood improved, especially when I ran it up to redline in 1st or 2nd. The previous owner had replaced rotten mufflers with plain exhaust pipe. It makes a glorious cacophony when you rev it and pops so prettily when you let off. The commute instantly became bearable and I really didn’t mind the drive. Even if the only real fun were the 4 or 5 intersections where I turned.

Then the landlord told us she was putting the property up for sale and we began to look for a new place to park the trailer. It took us a couple months, be we ended up finding a nice fenced in space in a mobile home park. It’s right around the corner from my job.

Literally: 0.7 of a mile. I measured it.

I walk or ride my bicycle to work now since .7 of a mile doesn’t even get my RX8 out of fast idle. It gets driven once a week 70 miles (35 miles each way) on the grocery run. Straight down the flat straight road from our little town of 1 independent grocery store to the nearest city where the prices are better and so are the choices. Even when it gets out on the road, it doesn’t get to have any fun.

It hurts me to not drive the RX8. I start my day off with a frown as I push my bicycle out the front gate and by it on my way to work. I have no idea how people can buy a “weekend” or a “summer” car. It sounds like auto abuse to me. Someone should call APS (Automobile Protective Services) on y’all.

So I’ve been thinking. Should I trade it off for an EV? I liked that Insight. A lot. Of my 40 years of life, trading it off is my only real regret. And I can’t really go back to it or one like it. The ICE is required and that’s the whole problem with driving my RX8 to work. The only vehicles that make any sense for me right now are EVs or EVs with range extenders. And EVs would be hard to live with out here in the middle of nowhere. Most of them lack the range to get home from the dealership. I’d have to buy them and ship them home.

I won’t get much for the trade. It’s a perfect 15 footer. It gets exponentially worse as you get closer. There is an exhaust leak at the manifold. Alignment of the left rear is off. The front splitter and under tray have seen better days and need rebuilding. Pretty sure it’s lost a couple apex seals. The transmission whines a bit in certain gears and I think the synchros are ready for replacement (or I’m not as good with a stick as I think I am). Road construction on my previous long commute have all but shattered the windshield. There are cracks on both the inside and outside glass layers and one cuts right through the driver’s vision. It’s need new vacuum valves and ignition coils. Paint chips abound. The sunroof doesn’t work right, I think one of the drive cables has snapped. I should think about getting at least some glass packs to quiet it a bit. Maybe. It’s a nice drivable project car.

It’s going to be hard to part with. In the last 24 year of driving, I’ve already parted with a Sirocco, a couple of BMWs with automatics, an RX7, a 924, a 300ZX, an ex-Fire Department S10 Blazer, and an old 70′s Datsun (I think. I was young, stupid, drove it once and scrapped it after it overheated).

But it would be nice to ride inside a car to work when it’s raining. Or snowing. Or the wind is whipping by at 30 mph. Or it’s 120 outside. Or when it’s 20 outside. Or go to lunch now and then instead of nuking something to eat at my desk.

Finances currently prohibit a new acquisition as that would mean 3 car payments at once.

TL/DR:
My current commute is .7 mile long and that won’t get my RX8 even out of fast idle. Should I trade it in on an EV? I love that RX8. You’ll have to talk me out of it.

Sajeev answers:

Oh my damn, Son!  I sure hope you’re aware of the irony of your lengthy letter and the remarkably short commute behind it.

More to the point, I don’t care!  Care about your ICE, that is.  You admitted the RX-8′s cardinal sin to internal combustion is already experiencing apex seal failure, so who cares if a 0.7 mile commute makes it marginally worse?  For the love of all that’s right in the world, it’s a rotary motor and it’s gonna take a premature dump no matter what!

Keep the RX-8 until it implodes.  But it won’t: you’ve lived quite an intriguing life, and you’ll be ready for a new machine well before the RX-8 forces you into a more reliable, more lifestyle befitting mode of transport. Enjoy the ride, you’ve done pretty damn well so far. And I must say, hat’s off to you, sir!

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

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Piston Slap: Fabric Tops vs Polar Vortex? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/piston-slap-fabric-tops-vs-polar-vortex/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/piston-slap-fabric-tops-vs-polar-vortex/#comments Mon, 13 Jan 2014 13:25:43 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=696937 Josh writes:

Sajeev –

Great news! After research, waiting, and a little bit of compromise, I have finally bought my first ‘real’ car. Last month, I bought a ’05 BMW 645i convertible with very low mileage and a clean bill of health. It is wonderful and brings me a little joy every time I start it.

Bad news! The country is currently gripped in a cold snap the likes of which we haven’t seen in 2 decades, and also, by the way, I live in Denver.

While I am more than comfortable with RWD in the snow, and I am getting used to not having a real spare tire, I realized that I had not considered maintenance of the top in cold-weather conditions. It is currently parked outside, and while a carport is available if I want to go that direction, I am more concerned what the combination of H2O and low mercury will do, at least until I move to a place with a real garage again.

Any suggestions how I can extend the joy and minimize loss when it comes time to sell? Thanks!

Sajeev answers:

Minimize the loss when it comes to sell?  Be more concerned with the litany of possible BMW E63 gremlins to keep at bay before selling it on to the next fan of such “real” cars.

And keeping the interior in tip-top shape, especially if you run everywhere with the top down.

But let’s talk about snow and convertibles: it could be a problem, considering last week’s polar vortex.  If wet snow and/or ice breaks tree branches and collapses roofs, they could bend your convertible’s metal frame.  Perhaps you could scratch plastic rear windows (not applicable here) with your ice scraper, too.

My advice is to keep the top free of snow accumulation so you’ll never worry about bent frame supports when hitting the switch.

Everything else?  Well, if you keep it around for years with no garage, the top’s gonna need replacement no matter what.  And considering the price of a re-pop top, there are far scarier powertrain/suspension/electronic replacement items on this Bimmer that I’d be worried about.

Bonus!  A Piston Slap Nugget of Wisdom: 

Do not leave valuables inside your car in plain sight!  A bad idea with any car, but even worse  in a drop top.  Taking a brick to your window to steal your iPod  is one thing, but a knife to your fabric roof to grab spare change on your console is another.  Hell, I’d consider leaving your convertible unlocked so someone can easily open it, look around for something to steal, find nothing and NEVER slap you with a $1000+ repair bill for fitting a new top! 

 

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice. 

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Piston Slap: Is The 2WD ‘Burb Ready for The Snow? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/piston-slap-is-the-2wd-burb-ready-for-the-snow/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/piston-slap-is-the-2wd-burb-ready-for-the-snow/#comments Mon, 09 Dec 2013 13:00:28 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=675570

Jay writes:

Professor Mehta,

I have some friends that are moving to Colorado from native South Florida. They’ve never lived in a 4 season climate let alone driven in snow. They own outright a 2007 2WD Suburban (80k miles) L33/LS1 FTW. The other car is an Acura TL he drives for work.

Since I’m the resident car guy, they’ve asked for advice. Should they trade the Suburban and get her a CPO X5 (her dream car)? Or buy an MDX, RX350 AWD?

My thought is they should keep the Suburban, at least for the first winter, and put a really nice set of Blizzaks on it. That way they can learn to drive in snow, and get a feel for what kind of vehicle would thrive in their new town (commute, traffic, snow etc).

After all, if it’s horrible, they can always mosey down to the dealer and trade out. It’s also my concern that AWD would be seen as a cure all and/or bring overconfidence on the road. I told them AWD doesn’t do squat with braking. Am I giving proper advice? What do you think?

Don’t let Sanjeev anywhere near this Piston Slap!

Sajeev answers:

When I was a wannabe-car designer in Detroit, a friend (rural Ohio native) explained why he almost never used four-wheel drive in his Blazer.  He liked the control of a RWD power train, eliminating understeer with tail wagging oversteer as needed. Because, as you mentioned, AWD can inspire overconfidence…and understeer into something unforgiving.

That said, Detroit did plow/salt the roads when needed. And when it really, really snowed, you didn’t want to go outside until the plow could keep up. Such is metropolitan city life: there’s a chance your friends don’t need a 4×4/AWD SUV…unless they live on a real steep hill. Or they live in a suburb with less frequent plowing. Or…

Take it from me: your advice only goes so far with others (especially when that advice is horrible – Sanjeev) so if they either want OR need an AWD vehicle, they should test drive the X5 and some others, and let them buy whatever they want.

See if they’ll put Blizzaks (or similar) on the ‘burb, because it’s the smart use of their money.  That might be enough to make them believers.

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

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Slip Slidin’ Away: How I Crashed a Geo Metro and Lived to Tell the Tale http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/02/slip-slidin-away-how-i-crashed-a-geo-metro-and-lived-to-tell-the-tale/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/02/slip-slidin-away-how-i-crashed-a-geo-metro-and-lived-to-tell-the-tale/#comments Tue, 26 Feb 2013 15:57:11 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=478738 Photo courtesy of www.asphaltwa.com

Descent into the Columbia river gorge on I 90 during summer

A few miles East of Ellensburg, WA, on the long winding descent into the Columbia river gorge, the little car, too small to run smoothly in both sets of the deep ruts that the semi trucks had worn into the pavement of Interstate 90, rolled from groove it had been following on the left side of the lane and dropped abruptly into the groove on the right. The lateral movement of the car within the lane was not great, maybe a foot or two, and I accounted for the motion with a simple counter of the steering wheel as I speed steadily along through the dark winter night.

I had not owned the Geo Metro long, just a few weeks, and so far it had been a positive experience. It was a cheap, tinny little car and to be sure it was no power machine, but with my lead foot and the car’s slick 5 speed transmission it could be speedy enough. Even now it was moving along effortlessly above the posted speed limit.

Another corner approached, this one a wide sweeping right hander and I turned the car in as smoothly as possible. The car responded a little sluggishly and, again, rolled up out of the groove in which I had been running and jerked into the parallel rut. With a sudden jolt the back tires broke traction and rear of the car swung wide. Surprised at the car’s motion, I responded with an equally sudden counter steer. The back end of the car snapped back, but again failed to find the groove and went wide right. Again I corrected with the steering wheel and the car responded at once, snapping back again to the left even more violently and demanding even greater correction with the wheel.

Like a pendulum swinging back and forth, the car was fishtailing wildly now and the back and forth cycle was growing ever more violent with each change of direction. I took my right foot from the gas to cover the brake but held it over the pedal without pressing down, brakes wouldn’t help I knew, they were the last resort. The car pitched again to the right, now fully 90 degrees to the lane of travel and I knew the next swing back to the left would be the most violent yet. When the car swung left, I corrected naturally but to no effect. The front wheels finally broke traction and the front of the car swung around and entered a full spin. I knew it was a lost cause and hammered the brakes as I threw an arm across my girlfriend, still asleep in the passenger seat and fully unaware of what was about to happen.

Image courtesy of www.greencarreports.com

Geo Metro

I had purchased the little Metro for the same reasons that everyone purchases small, fuel efficient cars and safety was not at the top of my list. In the fall of 1995 I pretty much had it all, a decent job, a beautiful girlfriend and I was even making slow but steady process towards my college degree. I had graduated from community college and enrolled in a teaching certification program being offered in the evenings by Western Washington University through Seattle Central Community College.

Since I lived a good distance outside of Seattle, the Geo Metro fit the bill perfectly. Its tiny three cylinder engine would sip gas and save me money. Even better, the buy-in price for the base model with no options was ludicrously low. A test drive confirmed the car was exactly the no frills transportation I needed and soon the little car and I were cutting our way through the traffic to Seattle and back three rainy nights each week.

Sometime in January, my girlfriend who was a year behind me in Community College, announced that she was thinking about finishing her four year degree at Washington State University. WSU, however, was almost 300 miles away on the extreme eastern edge of the state and if we were going to stay together it was going to mean frequent road trips. Still, I supported her decision and when she said she wanted to take a trip to see the college I volunteered to take her.

Photo courtesy of Washington State DOT: http://www.wsdot.wa.gov

Trucks stopped for avalanche control

It was late when we rolled through Ellensburg but, with minimal traffic on the interstate, I pressed on in the hopes of getting just a little farther before stopping for the night. As we headed up, Ryegrass Summit, the last hump before the road dropped into a long, winding descent into the Columbia river gorge, I gradually wicked up the speed to around 70mph. The fact that there was black ice on the road never occurred to me.

The car was now fully out of control, spinning and pirouetting like figure skater as we slid across the ice. I fought for control, but it was a futile gesture and we were still doing around 50 MPH when we left the road. The right rear tire bit into the soft shoulder first and I heard the roar of pebbles as the car snapped violently around to the right. A fraction of a second later we were stopped, my headlights shining up through the branches of a leafless bush, their brightness lost in the starry sky overhead.

As adrenaline poured into my system, time slowed to a crawl and I took in the situation in an oddly calm and orderly way. The engine was silent but heater fan hummed steadily along and the radio still put forth its stream of tinny AM talk. My girlfriend sat beside me, silent but as wide awake and focused as I was. Thank God she was OK. We both were. Then I noticed that the airbag had not deployed.

I turned the ignition key and the engine scratched to life. I slipped the gearshift into reverse and noted the sound of crunching gravel as I backed the little car up a small slope onto the hard shoulder of the interstate. Leaving the engine running, I slipped the car into neutral, shot the parking brake and got out to assess the damage.

Outside, I could feel the isolation of the place. The canyon walls towered up on either side of me, the face of a cliff just two lanes away across the eastbound lanes of the interstate. On the far side of the canyon, perhaps a half mile away, the westbound lanes of the interstate worked their way up and out of the valley and between the two roadbeds flowed a small creek. Over the centuries, this creek had eroded away the surrounding rock walls, widening the canyon and creating a flat, sandy plain. That sand was our salvation.

A slow hissing sound drew my attention to Metro’s front tire. In the car’s final spin, some small pebbles had forced their way between the tire and the rim and their presence was enough to cause a slow leak. Otherwise, my car appeared to be absolutely unscathed.

Noting the twinkling of lights down the valley, I resumed my place behind the wheel and headed for civilization. As I ran up to a much more cautious 40 mph, I heard the rattle of pebbles being flung from the bead of the tire and I realized the leak was sealing itself. Slowly, we made our way to the closest town and, with no gas stations open, checked into a hotel.

Photo courtesy of www.goodfon.com

The desert at night

We continued our journey the next day without incident. Two days later, as we headed west through the gorge on the homeward leg of our journey, I strained to see the place where we had left the road. There were no tracks, but the place itself was obvious. A small single oasis of sand in a place where the slope flattened just enough to allow the small stream to slow and meander. A hundred feet in either direction there was nothing but steel guardrails and the hard, exposed rock of the canyon wall.

Somewhere, further up the slope during our eastbound descent, the rear wheels of my little Metro had broken loose and I had begun a struggle for control. I can’t say how far that we traveled during that fight, but by the time that physics had won we were in the only place for miles where we could have emerged unscathed. To this day, I can’t explain how that happened. Perhaps it was just incredible luck, I don’t know, but maybe, just maybe, it was the guiding hand of God. As a person of faith, I would like to think so.

Thomas Kreutzer currently lives in Buffalo, New York with his wife and three children but has spent most of his adult life overseas. He has lived in Japan for 9 years, Jamaica for 2 and spent almost 5 years as a US Merchant Mariner serving primarily in the Pacific. A long time auto and motorcycle enthusiast he has pursued his hobbies whenever possible. He also enjoys writing and public speaking where, according to his wife, his favorite subject is himself

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The Internal Combustion Engine Strikes Back http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/08/the-internal-combustion-engine-strikes-back/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/08/the-internal-combustion-engine-strikes-back/#comments Sun, 12 Aug 2012 16:10:10 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=456500

The Nikkei [sub] detected a brand-new trend: Cars with an internal combustion engine. In Japan, 20 percent of new cars sold are hybrids. Elsewhere, especially in China and Europe, hybrid cars have a bit of a hard time. “Although being environmentally friendly is important, saving money is tops,” an unnamed Nissan exec told the Tokyo wire, and added that consumers in these markets look more closely at how much they can save on fuel costs in relation to vehicle prices. Now this trend is reaching Japan.

Volkswagen has always been a hybrid skeptic and instead did bet on making engines smaller. “Sales of Volkswagen vehicles reached 33,414 units in the January-July period, leaping 22% on the year,” in Japan, the Nikkei notes. (Closed market propagandists take note: If you give the Japanese what they want, that allegedly closed market suddenly opens…)

Nissan will sell a new Note subcompact next month that “is equipped with an engine that has been slimmed from 1.5 liters to 1.2 liters. A supercharger keeps output the same as the current model,” The Nikkei writes. That car gets 25.2km per liter, says The Nikkei, “almost on par with Honda’s Fit hybrid, but is some 150,000 yen cheaper.” That’s nearly $2,000, and you can buy a lot of gas with the savings.

If The Nikkei is right with spotting this trend, then there might be hope for Mazda and its Skyactiv technology.

Even in the U.S. the trend veers back to the lowly ICE. In its July 2012 market round-up, Hybridcars says:

“The take rate for hybrids of 2.7 to 2.8 percent has been consistent the last three months and below the 3.4 percent achieved in March and April when fuel prices were higher.”

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Mazda Is Cooking With Gas, Hates The Strong Yen http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/08/mazda-is-cooking-with-gas-hates-the-strong-yen/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/08/mazda-is-cooking-with-gas-hates-the-strong-yen/#comments Mon, 01 Aug 2011 12:53:54 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=404907

In an interview with The Nikkei [sub], Mazda’s President Takashi Yamanouchi mounted a spirited defense of the internal combustion engine. He said it won’t go away anytime soon. He thinks the ICE will remain a mainstream option, especially in emerging markets. As proof he points to the recently launched Demio subcompact, which gets similar mileage as a Honda hybrid.

Yamanouchi does not believe that hybrids or EVs will make a huge dent into the market, especially not in the emerging markets, where money is tight.

“The size of the global auto market is now at roughly 60 million units, but it will top 100 million sooner or later. Though we factor in opinions from outside the industry, the share of hybrid and electric cars in the global market will probably not exceed 5% in 2020. That means gasoline-powered cars are expected to continue to dominate the market.”

“Demand for gasoline cars in rapidly growing emerging markets is expected to swell. As gasoline cars have a bigger share of the market, improvements to fuel-efficiency technologies can help to slow down the pace of global warming. By 2015, we will raise our average mileage by 30% from 2008.”

All electric cars will have an even tougher time in Yamanouchi’s eyes:

“The key environmental technology (in the development of electric cars) is weight reduction. Electric and hybrid cars are heavier than gasoline cars because they are loaded with batteries and motors. The advantage of running the car in a motor-assisted mode is not necessarily big if it is on expressways.

As mileage rates are shown in figures, they are easy to compare. But cars also hold the kind of appeal that cannot be translated into numbers. It is more fun to drive gasoline cars than electric cars, because gasoline cars can offer the feel of a real engine. And it will become difficult to make a difference in motors alone. As we switch to new models, we will reduce the weight of our cars by 100 kg.”

Now the Nikkei is throwing Yamanouchi a curve ball  by quoting a number that is not true – yet: “The dollar is trading around the 70-yen level. Can you maintain domestic production under these circumstances?”  The Yen trades at 77 to the dollar today. Yamanouchi throws the ball right back:

“The exchange rate of roughly 70 yen means that we cannot produce in Japan. It is beyond our strength. While working to slash costs, we must develop value-added products that can sell, even at higher prices. It is important to develop products that come with sophisticated technologies and designs and build up our brand recognition by improving marketing and services.

We have told our autopart suppliers that we will maintain domestic production of 1 million units. But Mazda alone has a limit when it comes to bearing the burden of the strong yen. We want them to shoulder the appropriate costs by settling transactions in dollars, among other means. We must work hand in hand to get through this common challenge and enhance our global competitiveness.”

Now there’s an idea: Japanese parts suppliers will sell parts to Japanese automakers and get paid in dollars. Not going to happen. The exchange rate poses a more pressing problem than whether we will change from ICE to hybrid or EV.

 

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Move Aside, Hybrid. Here Comes The ICE http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/10/move-aside-hybrid-here-comes-the-ice/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/10/move-aside-hybrid-here-comes-the-ice/#comments Sat, 09 Oct 2010 09:31:28 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=367995

So far, if you wanted to save gas and if you didn’t want to suffer a coronary from range anxiety, you bought yourself a hybrid. The problem: They are expensive. You choose to pay Big Car instead of Big Oil. Don’t despair: Ye olde ICE still has a lot of fight in it.

Daihatsu plans to launch the e:S minivehicle next year in Japan, which can travel 30km on a single liter of gasoline. That’s about 70 mpg (non-EPA.) According to The Nikkei [sub], the car is comes with an idling stop system, and exhaust gas is recirculated to power the engine. The minivehicle is likely to sell for less than 1 million yen in Japan, or around $12,000.

Suzuki is likewise working on even more fuel efficient minivehicles, in response to “louder consumer calls for better fuel efficiency,” says President Osamu Suzuki.

These low powered cars with pint-sized engines will likely never appear on U.S. shores.

But subcompacts are turning out ever increasing mpg numbers. Nissan’s Micra gets 26 km per liter (around 60 mpg, non-EPA.) It’s cheap, and no wonder that it sold 22,000 units since launched in July, five times more than expected.

Mazda is working on a subcompact to be launched next year that promises a mileage comparable to hybrids.

With all the growth being in emerging markets where the price of a car plays a huge role, focusing on simple, low cost, fuel efficient offerings doesn’t sound like a bad idea.

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Mazda And Subaru: “Long Live The ICE!” http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/08/mazda-and-subaru-%e2%80%9clong-live-the-ice%e2%80%9d/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/08/mazda-and-subaru-%e2%80%9clong-live-the-ice%e2%80%9d/#comments Tue, 24 Aug 2010 15:41:47 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=363699

If you are a carmaker, you need to have a hybrid and maybe even a plugin in the program, or at least on the schedule – whether your heart is in it or not. Even avowed petrol (and diesel) heads such as BMW and Volkswagen are dabbling with electrified powertrains – officially. Where are the last holdouts? In hybrid-country Japan.

“Mazda and Fuji Heavy are pursuing unique growth strategies as they continue to bank on refinements to the international combustion engine, in stark contrast with larger automakers that are rushing to roll out hybrid and electric cars,” reports The Nikkei [sub] to an aghast readership.

“Internal combustion engines have yet to reach their limit and there is still room for development,” said Seita Kanai, senior Mazda executive in charge of development. Mazda remains committed to improving traditional engines. Why? Because chasing electrons doesn’t make sense, they say.

“We believe electric vehicles that do not use an engine will likely account for just 5 percent of all cars in 2020,” said Kanai.

Fuji Heavy, maker of Subaru, is not working on batteries, but will commercialize a new flat engine designed for its midsize cars by the end of this year.

Should both need hybrid technology, they just buy it from Toyota. “Given their limited R&D budgets, they find it wiser to target the 95 percent of the market that is non-electric,” says The Nikkei.

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