The Truth About Cars » Whiskey Tango Foxtrot http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Fri, 05 Dec 2014 17:06:32 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0.1 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 » Whiskey Tango Foxtrot http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com Just Kidding! Suzuki Decides To Play Late April Fools Joke On North American Employees http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/11/just-kidding-suzuki-decides-to-play-late-april-fools-joke-on-north-american-employees/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/11/just-kidding-suzuki-decides-to-play-late-april-fools-joke-on-north-american-employees/#comments Wed, 14 Nov 2012 23:04:24 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=466931   All 12 North American employees have been officially notified that their jobs are saved. “Look, I get bored! Did you ever have that urge to just fire someone just because it’s a Monday.” said Suzuki founder Maruti Suzuki. “I remembered when Consumer Reports did that nasty little hack job on our Samurai and, well, it’s been […]

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Click here to view the embedded video.

 

All 12 North American employees have been officially notified that their jobs are saved.

“Look, I get bored! Did you ever have that urge to just fire someone just because it’s a Monday.” said Suzuki founder Maruti Suzuki.

“I remembered when Consumer Reports did that nasty little hack job on our Samurai and, well, it’s been nearly 25 years since the last hit. 25 years! We were becoming the Wavy Gravy of car brands and I just had to do something to wake these people up.”

Karen Carpenter, president of Suzuki International PR Operations also informed TTAC of a new requirement for Suzuki Auto employees,  “Speaking of which, every Suzuki Auto employee who wants to be rehired will now have to streak to the flag pole at our headquarters wearing nothing more than a skinny tire in honor of the 25th anniversary release of the last new US Spec Suzuki Samurai.”

Ms. Carpenter continued, “The song “Top Of the World” will be resounding throughout the loudpseakers in Japanese as Mr. Suzuki proudly celebrates the re-opening of their North American headquarters with the reintroduction of three historic Suzuki model names for our North American line-up.”

“The SX4 will now be the Swift. A new small 4×4 will be coming from Japan that will be deemed the Samurai, and yes, we will offer a CU Suck It! Edition which will feature no sway bars, struts from our surplus Forenza inventory, and 23″ tires.”

“Finally we will be renaming the Grand Vitara the Sidekick, with Chuck Norris inflicting his own patented sidekick to random celebrities whenever the opportunity arises. Paris Hilton, Donald Trump, the Duggars, you have all been warned!”

Note: The author was given a free tank of gas, insurance, a Carpenters greatest hits album, and a 15 year old Suzuki Esteem Wagon in exchange for this press release. Actually, I bought the Esteem at a public auction for $600 with a free tank of gas, an expired insurance card in the glovebox, and a very worn Carpenters cassette that was temporarily stuck in the tape deck. The noxious fumes and cat hair I experienced right afterwards were the inspiration for this article.

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Weekend Weird Crush: “The Small God For The Big Future” http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/01/weekend-weird-crush-the-small-god-for-the-big-future/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/01/weekend-weird-crush-the-small-god-for-the-big-future/#comments Sun, 08 Jan 2012 19:36:01 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=424799 Maruti Suzuki’s big news at the Delhi Auto Show was the debut of its production compact MPV, the Ertiga. But it wasn’t all staid family-carriers at the Suzuki stand, as the Japanese-Indian automaker also debuted its XA Alpha concept, described in this dramatically-narrated (to put it mildly) video as “The Small God For The Big […]

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Maruti Suzuki’s big news at the Delhi Auto Show was the debut of its production compact MPV, the Ertiga. But it wasn’t all staid family-carriers at the Suzuki stand, as the Japanese-Indian automaker also debuted its XA Alpha concept, described in this dramatically-narrated (to put it mildly) video as “The Small God For The Big Future.” Remember the Suzuki Samurai (our global readers will certainly remember the Jimny)? It’s getting ready for its 21st Century makeover…

Suzuki says that the styling of this subcompact SUV, aimed at Ford’s new Ecosport and GM’s forthcoming Mokka, was inspired by traditional Indian wrestlers. Which may well be the case, but there’s no deny that there’s at least a little Range Rover Evoque in the look.

But what’s more enticing than the styling itself, is the question of whether or not a vehicle like this could bolster Suzuki’s muddled US product line. Suzuki has already established itself as the go-to option for low-cost AWD vehicles in the US with its SX4… but one can’t help wondering how many sales that model leaves on the table due to its small-hatchback design. With a more rugged, more-SUV-looking model on similar underpinnings, Suzuki might just be able to build a rugged-entry-AWD image in this market as Subaru moves inexorably upmarket towards an “Audi Junior” positioning.

In any case, the B-SUV market is starting to get some real attention globally, as the global giants update their aged entrants in the segment for ever-more-demanding developing markets. And as a fan of this genre, with its small, funky, affordable and surprisingly utilitarian mini-utes, I certainly hope someone decides to test the US waters with something like this.

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Tiny (12cc) Hand-Machined V12 Is A Holiday Miracle http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/12/tiny-12cc-hand-machined-v12-is-a-holiday-miracle/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/12/tiny-12cc-hand-machined-v12-is-a-holiday-miracle/#comments Tue, 27 Dec 2011 15:25:08 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=423564 Need an engineering project? Got 1,200 hours to kill with nothing to do? Take a tip from this heroically patient Spaniard, and hand-machine your own tiny (12 cc displacement) V12. This would be amazing feat of handwork even if it weren’t fully operational (using compressed air injection), but the fact that it works, runs and […]

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Need an engineering project? Got 1,200 hours to kill with nothing to do? Take a tip from this heroically patient Spaniard, and hand-machine your own tiny (12 cc displacement) V12. This would be amazing feat of handwork even if it weren’t fully operational (using compressed air injection), but the fact that it works, runs and was made without a single CNC machine is nothing short of astounding.. If, as the book suggests, Shop Class is Soulcraft, this guy is like an engineering bodhisattva, inspiring us with his precision, patience and skill. In a world where not much is made by hand anymore, this achievement is worth taking a few minutes to marvel over… [Hat Tip: Dean Huston]

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“I Should Call Aston Martin And Ask Them Not To Put This Button In My Next Car” http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/10/i-should-call-aston-martin-and-ask-them-not-to-put-this-button-in-my-next-car/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/10/i-should-call-aston-martin-and-ask-them-not-to-put-this-button-in-my-next-car/#comments Sun, 30 Oct 2011 16:29:03 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=416087 Here’s hoping your weekend motoring has been a little bit safer than surfboard designer Roberto Ricci’s…

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Here’s hoping your weekend motoring has been a little bit safer than surfboard designer Roberto Ricci’s…

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And Now: The 120 MPH Crash Test http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/10/and-now-the-120-mph-crash-test/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/10/and-now-the-120-mph-crash-test/#comments Fri, 21 Oct 2011 18:28:23 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=415442 Usually it’s the Germans who we find continually pushing the crash-test envelope, but this time around the UK’s Fifth Gear TV Show that decided to crash a car at 120 MPH. Sure, the Germans already proved how much of a difference can be made by crashing at 50 MPH instead of the traditional 40 MPH, […]

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Usually it’s the Germans who we find continually pushing the crash-test envelope, but this time around the UK’s Fifth Gear TV Show that decided to crash a car at 120 MPH. Sure, the Germans already proved how much of a difference can be made by crashing at 50 MPH instead of the traditional 40 MPH, just as the Chinese can make any of their cars appear safe by testing at 35 MPH rather than 40 MPH. But 120 MPH? It’s never been done before…

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The SUV That Might Have Been: The Marmon-Herrington Rhino http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/10/the-suv-that-might-have-been-the-marmon-herrington-rhino/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/10/the-suv-that-might-have-been-the-marmon-herrington-rhino/#comments Sun, 16 Oct 2011 18:23:14 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=414953 Axle and transfer case-maker Marmon-Herrington is still around, supplying OEMs and the aftermarket alike with up-rated drivetrain components. But back in the ’40s and ’50s, the firm designed its own vehicles as well, from an air-droppable tank, to a South African armored car, to monocoque electric trolley buses. Its predecessor company, Marmon Motor Car Company, […]

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Axle and transfer case-maker Marmon-Herrington is still around, supplying OEMs and the aftermarket alike with up-rated drivetrain components. But back in the ’40s and ’50s, the firm designed its own vehicles as well, from an air-droppable tank, to a South African armored car, to monocoque electric trolley buses. Its predecessor company, Marmon Motor Car Company, even built the first car to win the Indy 500, the Marmon Wasp. Sadly this beast, an experimental amphibious off-road (on-marsh) vehicle called the Rhino (more here), was never produced. Otherwise, the Marmon name might have been exhumed during the ’90s SUV boom by a bespoke coachbuilding firm, offering specially-bodied medium-duty truck chassis bearing the brand name that won the first Indy 500 and parachuted into Nazi Germany. Imagine the possibilities…

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Erlkönig 101: Germany’s Prototype-Chasing Culture Jumps The Shark http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/10/erlkonig101/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/10/erlkonig101/#comments Fri, 14 Oct 2011 19:18:39 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=414748 America has a fine tradition of automotive spy shots, but it pales in comparison to Germany’s “Erlkönig” tradition. So much so, that Germans seem to exhibit a downright Pavlovian response to camouflaged vehicles, chasing anything that looks like it might be a factory prototype. Even if it’s actually a vehicle they probably see every day. […]

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America has a fine tradition of automotive spy shots, but it pales in comparison to Germany’s “Erlkönig” tradition. So much so, that Germans seem to exhibit a downright Pavlovian response to camouflaged vehicles, chasing anything that looks like it might be a factory prototype. Even if it’s actually a vehicle they probably see every day. How did this conditioning take root in the German psyche? For that, we need a brief history lesson.

The first-ever spy shots of an automotive prototype (a Mercedes 180), taken by Auto Motor und Sport in the 1950s, were accompanied by lighthearted adaptations of Goethe’s poem Der Erlkönig because, in the words of one editor

These images, which by todays standards are ridiculously harmless, were considered an unprecedented provocation by the automobile industry. [Then-Editor-in-Chief Heinz-Ulrich Wieselmann] finally decided to sweeten the bitter pill for the industry by accompanying the images with endearing text. In this spirit, he rhymed a little poem in the style of the Erlkönig (Alder King) to go with the first pictures

Who rides there, through the rain and wind so wild?
Is it a street cruiser from the other side,
who in this dimension was left behind,
Or could it be Daimler’s youngest child?

[Ed: translation is mine]

Goethe’s poem, which tells of a child’s death at the hands of a mythical Alder King that his father (who carries him through “rain and night”) can not see, is so well known that the reference was clear. Ever since then, camouflaged prototypes are know as Erlkönigs, and Germans hunt them with abiding passion.

So much so, in fact, that a firm selling graphic wraps for automobiles decided to give a BMW X5 a mule-style wrap that was actually an advertisement for its services… and it ended up on Youtube, identified as an “Erlkönig” of an X5 facelift. Which proves not only that even non-auto-obsessed Germans will chase anything with four wheels and camo on it, but that this was genius marketing move.

Incidentally, the motto that makes up those spirals says “make your car look new.” Brilliant.

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What’s Wrong With This Picture: Yacht Tender Edition http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/10/whats-wrong-with-this-picture-yacht-tender-edition/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/10/whats-wrong-with-this-picture-yacht-tender-edition/#comments Sat, 08 Oct 2011 16:59:06 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=414192 When Aston-Martin was first trying to explain there’s nothing undignified about rebadging a Toyota iQ, the firm’s argument was that the Cygnet would be like a “luxury yacht tender.” If you own a yacht (or a “real Aston”), went the company’s logic, nobody’s going to make fun of you for being seen in a dinghy. […]

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When Aston-Martin was first trying to explain there’s nothing undignified about rebadging a Toyota iQ, the firm’s argument was that the Cygnet would be like a “luxury yacht tender.” If you own a yacht (or a “real Aston”), went the company’s logic, nobody’s going to make fun of you for being seen in a dinghy. Or a Toyota. But it seems as though Aston’s argument has been taken a bit too literally. Here, a Top Gear Magazine feature tries towing a Cygnet in a Virage, effectively ruining the “real Aston’s” performance in exchange for more urban practicality when they arrive in Monaco (but at least they got a schadenfreude-laden picture of the Cygnet next to its Toyota cousin). And lest you think this “yacht tender” nonsense is only being done by barmy British magazines, think again. Now Aston just needs to build an actual yacht, so your DBS or Virage can be the yacht tender, and the Cygnet can be the yacht tender’s yacht tender. Now that would be luxury… [via Derek Kreindler’s Tumblr]

 

 

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Weekend Weird Crush Update: Kia TAM (EV?) Spotted On The Korean Freeway http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/10/weekend-weird-crush-update-kia-tam-ev-spotted-on-the-korean-freeway/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/10/weekend-weird-crush-update-kia-tam-ev-spotted-on-the-korean-freeway/#comments Sat, 08 Oct 2011 16:31:52 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=414186 It’s been… several months since I last indulged my strange obsession with Kia’s forthcoming funky take on first-gen Scion xB values, known as the TAM. And back then, all I had to share were a few crummy photos. Now, thanks to Youtube user daniel78park, we can see the Tam flying down the Korean freeway in […]

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It’s been… several months since I last indulged my strange obsession with Kia’s forthcoming funky take on first-gen Scion xB values, known as the TAM. And back then, all I had to share were a few crummy photos. Now, thanks to Youtube user daniel78park, we can see the Tam flying down the Korean freeway in glorious cell-phone-o-vision. And though I’ve always assumed the TAM was just a boxy, city-delivery variant of the Picanto/i10 platform, it seems my weird crush is more than that. Automotive News [sub] reports

Kia has dubbed its EV effort the TAM project. Kia’s first EV will be a small vehicle based on the platform underpinning the Hyundai i10 minicar. The company plans to produce 2,000 units in 2012.

Hold up… is my weird crush electric?

If so, this would explain why so little is known about it. And all the more reason to bring it to the US, as an escalation of the “reverse halo” strategy that Hyundai is leveraging with its Veloster. In fact, with an unconventional door configuration of its own (three standard doors, one slider), Kia just has to call this thing the “Soulster” and watch Scion squirm. Of course, with only 2k units planned for next year, this car isn’t leaving Korea anytime soon. Unless, of course, there will be a gas version too… say, the direct-injected, turbocharged 1.2 liter four-banger that Karesh mentions in his Hyundai i10 review. Or, maybe, just maybe, I’m getting a little carried away with this weird crush of mine…

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Porsche Has Something Expensive To Sell You http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/10/porsche-has-something-expensive-to-sell-you/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/10/porsche-has-something-expensive-to-sell-you/#comments Fri, 07 Oct 2011 18:03:15 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=414032 No, it’s not a special-edition 911 with a few extra horsepower and leather-wrapped mirror-adjustment levers. Nor is it a water pipe built to the most exacting standards ever imagined by German engineers. No, Porsche has a freaking palace for sale, Schloss Bullachberg to be precise. Conveniently located in Bavaria’s castle district, near  some of Germany’s […]

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No, it’s not a special-edition 911 with a few extra horsepower and leather-wrapped mirror-adjustment levers. Nor is it a water pipe built to the most exacting standards ever imagined by German engineers. No, Porsche has a freaking palace for sale, Schloss Bullachberg to be precise. Conveniently located in Bavaria’s castle district, near  some of Germany’s most famous castles, Bullachberg was once the seat of the von Thurn und Taxis dynasty… and can now be yours for an undisclosed sum. The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung reports that Porsche bought the property five years ago, for some six million Euros, with plans to turn it into a luxury resort hotel for “kaufkräftig” (literally purchase-powerful) customers and management retreats. Fast forward through one financial crisis and one overambitious attempt to buy Volkswagen, and Porsche has decided to let the property go. But be warned, as the FAZ reports that

only the most necessary work was done on the building’s upkeep.

Now that Ferrari even has its own amusement park (conveniently begun before the financial crisis), there’s no way Porsche will ever match its Italian rival in terms of cross-branded destination tourism. Which is fine. After all, we’re talking about car companies here… right?

 

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“We Just Like Doing Really Crazy Stuff Like This” http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/10/we-just-like-doing-really-crazy-stuff-like-this/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/10/we-just-like-doing-really-crazy-stuff-like-this/#comments Tue, 04 Oct 2011 14:35:57 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=413440 “We” being Nissan, and “this” being shortening a GT-R powertrain enough to fit a Juke bodyshell over it. It won’t ever make production, and it will probably spin dizzy, short-wheelbase circles every time it even thinks about a corner… but even the haters have to admit that this is a clever way to highlight the […]

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“We” being Nissan, and “this” being shortening a GT-R powertrain enough to fit a Juke bodyshell over it. It won’t ever make production, and it will probably spin dizzy, short-wheelbase circles every time it even thinks about a corner… but even the haters have to admit that this is a clever way to highlight the Juke’s unexpectedly sporty nature. But despite the argument that “there’s a history of Nissan engineers driving the business,” let’s be clear about one thing: Nissan’s involvement in this project is all on the marketing side. Once upon a time, Nissan’s engineers might have built a little monster like this out of sheer passion, in their spare time. Today, though, the work gets outsourced to specialty race engineering shops, RML in this case. It’s not a knock, that’s just how the world works anymore.

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Maserati: “We Can Do Anything” http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/09/maserati-we-can-do-anything/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/09/maserati-we-can-do-anything/#comments Wed, 28 Sep 2011 17:12:44 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=412850 In the annals of poorly-chosen songs, this one is right up there with the State of New Jersey’s almost-decision to make Springsteen’s “Born To Run” the state song. Yes, Maserati, you can do anything, you can be anyone… and you’re choosing to be the brand that pimps upgraded Grand Cherokees by invoking the ghost of […]

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In the annals of poorly-chosen songs, this one is right up there with the State of New Jersey’s almost-decision to make Springsteen’s “Born To Run” the state song. Yes, Maserati, you can do anything, you can be anyone… and you’re choosing to be the brand that pimps upgraded Grand Cherokees by invoking the ghost of Fangio over crappy power-pop. Do you really want to be reminding viewers that this is a conscious choice, picked from an infinite range of options? Because that kind of willful douchbaggery makes you, Maserati, look like you’re a half-step from becoming the official luxury brand of Jersey Shore.

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New Chinese Champion Of Derivative Styling Discovered: Yema Motors http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/09/new-chinese-champion-of-derivative-styling-discovered-yema-motors/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/09/new-chinese-champion-of-derivative-styling-discovered-yema-motors/#comments Tue, 20 Sep 2011 15:00:09 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=411889 TTAC wasn’t able to be on-hand for the Chengdu Auto Show, but thanks to Carnewschina.com, we’ve got the latest in “we’re far enough into the interior that foreign firms won’t complain about our blatant ripoffs” styling, from the new heavyweight champion of Chinese ripoffs: Yema Motors. Seriously, calling these things “derivative” is wholly undeserved a […]

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TTAC wasn’t able to be on-hand for the Chengdu Auto Show, but thanks to Carnewschina.com, we’ve got the latest in “we’re far enough into the interior that foreign firms won’t complain about our blatant ripoffs” styling, from the new heavyweight champion of Chinese ripoffs: Yema Motors. Seriously, calling these things “derivative” is wholly undeserved a compliment. And if you think this Audi A4… excuse me, Yema F16, is bad just wait until you see the rest of their new cars. From the Infiniti-aping E-series, to the Touareg-alike “T-SUV,” to the Subaru Forester clone F99/F10, the stylists at Yema Motors take their mimicry very seriously. And apparently the last original idea their design team had was “I know, let’s put our faux-Audi grille on the Faux-rester.” Tada, new model! The Jiade Dynasty rolls on…

Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail yema-t-suv-1 yema-f99-1 yema-f10-1 yema-e-series-1 Don't I know you from somewhere? (Courtesy: Carnewschina.com)

 

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The Video Game For Armchair Auto Execs Is Coming http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/09/the-video-game-for-armchair-auto-execs-is-coming/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/09/the-video-game-for-armchair-auto-execs-is-coming/#comments Sat, 17 Sep 2011 16:52:01 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=411516 Not long ago, I considered asking the Best and Brightest if something like this were possible. You see, when I was a younger man, I was a big fan of the game Aerobiz, a tough, take-no-prisoners Super Nintendo simulation of the (Cold War-era) airline business. Since I’ve been immersed in the world of the car […]

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Not long ago, I considered asking the Best and Brightest if something like this were possible. You see, when I was a younger man, I was a big fan of the game Aerobiz, a tough, take-no-prisoners Super Nintendo simulation of the (Cold War-era) airline business. Since I’ve been immersed in the world of the car business, I’ve often wondered if it were possible to create a game that similarly captured the challenges of running a car company. And now, it seems, that game is already in development by a couple of coder car nerds from Australia. Called “Automation,” the game is still a ways from completion and its creators are soliciting pre-orders to help fund development (sound like any car startups you can think of?).

I’m not 100% convinced that this game will be able to simulate the incredible complexity of a car market, let alone the near-infinite tasks of serving it, but it’s the best attempt at such a game I’ve heard of. And because its creators “just wanted a game like this to play,” I’m optimistic about the outcome. And I figure, if anyone else shares my enthusiasm for this kind of video game, it’s my fellow armchair auto execs here at TTAC. So check it out, and if you share my enthusiasm, plunk down for a pre-order. Or better yet, drop me an email at our contact form and we’ll look into pooling resources and getting the game branded as “TTAC’s Automation.” After all, if you’re a big enough car nerd to want to simulate running your own car company, chances are you’re already a TTAC reader…

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Cars Only Bob Lutz Remembers: The Dodge Dakota Convertible http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/09/cars-only-bob-lutz-remembers-the-dodge-dakota-convertible/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/09/cars-only-bob-lutz-remembers-the-dodge-dakota-convertible/#comments Tue, 06 Sep 2011 18:11:30 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=410416 Welcome to Bob Lutz week at TTAC! I spent several hours recently with the auto industry’s most notorious executive, and elements of that interview will be the basis for much of my writing this week. We’ll also be capping the whole thing off by voting on the 2010-2011 Lutzie award for most unfortunate quote by […]

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Welcome to Bob Lutz week at TTAC! I spent several hours recently with the auto industry’s most notorious executive, and elements of that interview will be the basis for much of my writing this week. We’ll also be capping the whole thing off by voting on the 2010-2011 Lutzie award for most unfortunate quote by an auto exec. And rather than jumping right into the meat of the interview, I want to kick off Lutz week by looking at a few cars that came up in our meandering conversation. After all, these are not just vehicles… when Lutz brings them up in an interview, they become stories, little encapsulations of his philosophy or the state of the company that made them. Let’s start with a car that I literally had never heard of before he mentioned it almost in passing: the Dodge Dakota Convertible. Eat your heart out, Murano CrossCabriolet… the Dakota was the original “WTF-vertible.”

Given his reputation for over-the-top vehicles like the Viper and Volt, and his general fondness for drop-tops, you might think that the Dakota ‘vert was one of Bob Lutz’s “babies,” but if that were the case his enthusiasm for the truckvertible has waned considerably. And, the way he tells the story, the Dakota’s topless conversion was not a gut-call for a strong niche product, but the outgrowth of Chrysler’s brief infatuation with “brand management.” But let’s let Lutz tell the story himself, which opens sometime around 1988, when Hal Sperlich was forced out of the company and Lutz began taking over more responsibility:

Like many other companies at the time, Iacocca got himself talked into ‘brand management’ by a board member, a guy by the name of Paul Sticht who was with RJR Nabisco. And so we had the famous Jerry York running Dodge brand and they were going to dictate product priorities to us. Jeep was intelligent enough to just say ‘hey, we’re on the right track. We’ll do the V8 Grand Cherokee and all the other stuff that followed on.’ But Jerry York wanted to make a mark, so he wanted a a Dodge Shadow convertible, for which we didn’t have the money, and he wanted a Dakota pickup convertible. *laughs* There’s a few around. I think we sold like a thousand. Maybe.

I saw one the other day at an airport out in California. Slammed. I think the Dakota convertible had to be the leakiest convertible top of all time… we had it done by ASC down in Mexico. It would be fun to have one just because they’re so rare… but once Iacocca saw that brand management wasn’t working, I became the real President.

My initial curiosity about the story was based wholly in the fact that I hadn’t been aware of the existence of a convertible pickup other than the SSR. But, having reflected on the story, I realized that this anecdote actually shows an interesting side of Lutz’s character. Though best known as the father of all kinds of outlandish machinery, Lutz is not the kind of guy to champion anything that’s out of the automotive norm simply because of its unusualness. Though Lutz clearly likes the idea of a rare convertible pickup, his dismissive attitude towards the Dakota Convertible’s genesis says a lot about his  attitude towards new product development: in short, when an idea comes from “product guys” he tends to like it, but when it comes from “brand managers” he tends to be less supportive.

The problem with that attitude? By emphasizing problems in product conception rather than the product itself, Lutz opens himself to repeating mistakes that others have made, in the belief that a more product-oriented process (rather than a brand-oriented process) will have more success. The obvious example of this is the SSR truckvertible that Lutz championed into production at GM. Though it sold considerably more than a thousand units (estimated volume: 24,150 between 2003 and 2005), the SSR was still ultimately a flop. Would Lutz have pushed the SSR into production when he arrived at GM if the Dakota Convertible hadn’t been pushed on him by Jerry York’s Dodge “brand managers”? York and company certainly provided an easy scapegoat for one of the weirdest vehicles ever produced. And with the benefit of hindsight, it now seems fairly clear that drop-top pickups are a problematic proposition whether they come from “product guys” or “brand managers.”

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Courts Uphold Right To Video Police, New Mexico Officer Makes Us Wonder If We Should http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/08/courts-uphold-right-to-video-police/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/08/courts-uphold-right-to-video-police/#comments Tue, 30 Aug 2011 19:48:05 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=409304 Boston.com’s On Liberty blog reports that the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the right of citizens to video police officers, ruling in part that changes in technology and society have made the lines between private citizen and journalist exceedingly difficult to draw. The proliferation of electronic devices with video-recording capability means that many of […]

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Boston.com’s On Liberty blog reports that the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the right of citizens to video police officers, ruling in part that

changes in technology and society have made the lines between private citizen and journalist exceedingly difficult to draw. The proliferation of electronic devices with video-recording capability means that many of our images of current events come from bystanders with a ready cell phone or digital camera rather than a traditional film crew, and news stories are now just as likely to be broken by a blogger at her computer as a reporter at a major newspaper. Such developments make clear why the news-gathering protections of the First Amendment cannot turn on professional credentials or status.

So great was this victory for First Amendment rights and the New Media, that an Albuquerque police officer celebrated by getting caught in flagrante delicto while in uniform. You know, in case there was any question as to why the courts really ruled this way. And if this whole story smacks of Jalopnik-style only-barely-related-to-cars desperation, we’ve got a “Stump the Best And Brightest” challenge to keep things car-centric: what model of vehicle is the officer “laying down the law” on?

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The Physics Of Flintstones-Style Braking http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/08/the-physics-of-flintstones-style-braking/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/08/the-physics-of-flintstones-style-braking/#comments Sat, 27 Aug 2011 16:45:33 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=409008 This is the kind of video that might suffice as standalone weekend entertainment. After all, braking a truck with your feet is a pretty demonstrably bad idea. But the lovable nerds at Popular Science just had to take it a step further and work out the physics of trying to halt a truck ala Fred […]

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This is the kind of video that might suffice as standalone weekend entertainment. After all, braking a truck with your feet is a pretty demonstrably bad idea. But the lovable nerds at Popular Science just had to take it a step further and work out the physics of trying to halt a truck ala Fred Flintstone, noting

Let’s estimate he can push down with a force about a quarter of his weight. If he weighs 200 pounds, this would result in a force of 50 pounds, or 225 N. We also know that the force of friction (F) between his feet and the asphalt depends on the force with which he pushes down (N) and the “coefficient of kinetic friction”(μ) between the soles of his shoes, which we will assume are made of rubber, and the pavement.

F = μN

The μ between rubber and asphalt varies between 0.5 and 0.8. Let’s assume a value of 0.7. Therefore, solving for stopping distance, we get:

D = ½(2100kg)(18m/s)2/(0.7)(225N) = 2160 meters, or over 1.3 miles!

The situation might be improved if he exerted his full 200 pounds, or 900 Newtons, of force against the ground. In that case:

D = 1/2(2100kg)(18m/s)2/(0.7)(900N) = 540 meters (about a third of a mile)

However, the amount of torque exerted on his ankles and knees might make that a problematic proposition.

Surf on over to PopSci for the entire breakdown (no pun intended).

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The Portrait Of An Early Adopter http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/08/the-portrait-of-an-early-adopter/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/08/the-portrait-of-an-early-adopter/#comments Thu, 18 Aug 2011 21:58:47 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=407834 One of the most challenging aspects of running a blog like TTAC is managing diversity. As a global site, TTAC and its readers are exposed to the full range of diverse global perspectives, but our largest market, the United States, is also home to incredibly divergent views and lifestyles. Much is made of our national […]

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One of the most challenging aspects of running a blog like TTAC is managing diversity. As a global site, TTAC and its readers are exposed to the full range of diverse global perspectives, but our largest market, the United States, is also home to incredibly divergent views and lifestyles. Much is made of our national polarization these days, and when the topic turns political, TTAC often finds itself on the front lines of America’s cultural and ideological battlefield. Luckily we’re all of us bound together by something that transcends much of what divides us: our shared fascination with cars gives us the opportunity to interact with and relate to people with whom we may have little else in common.

Take this photo: depending on your perspective, this scene, photographed near my home in Portland, OR, might be a symbol of the ultimate automotive aspiration or a dread vision of a dystopian anti-automotive future. But regardless of how the image relates to your personal views and circumstances, nobody can deny that the people who live in that house think very seriously about their automobiles. And even the most unabashed, gas-huffing EV skeptic has to respect that. Vive le difference!

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What’s Wrong With This Picture: I’m Looking For Something That Says “Dad Likes Leather” Edition http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/08/whats-wrong-with-this-picture-im-looking-for-something-that-says-dad-likes-leather-edition/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/08/whats-wrong-with-this-picture-im-looking-for-something-that-says-dad-likes-leather-edition/#comments Thu, 18 Aug 2011 15:08:20 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=407747 What’s next for the whale penis leather upholsterers at Russia’s gauchest tuning house, Dartz? How about a wrapping a Ferrari F430 in leather-grain vinyl? Sophisticated! [via GTspirit]

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What’s next for the whale penis leather upholsterers at Russia’s gauchest tuning house, Dartz? How about a wrapping a Ferrari F430 in leather-grain vinyl? Sophisticated! [via GTspirit]
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Quote Of The Day: Who Wants To See Gas Under $2 Per Gallon? Edition http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/08/quote-of-the-day-who-wants-to-see-gas-under-2-per-gallon-edition/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/08/quote-of-the-day-who-wants-to-see-gas-under-2-per-gallon-edition/#comments Wed, 17 Aug 2011 21:46:02 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=407711 Who’s ready for some politics? With the presidential election still over 14 months away, recent Iowa straw poll winner Michelle Bachmann is upping the campaign promise ante by telling a Greenville, SC crowd The day that the president became president gasoline was $1.79 a gallon. Look at what it is today. Under President Bachmann, you […]

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Who’s ready for some politics? With the presidential election still over 14 months away, recent Iowa straw poll winner Michelle Bachmann is upping the campaign promise ante by telling a Greenville, SC crowd

The day that the president became president gasoline was $1.79 a gallon. Look at what it is today. Under President Bachmann, you will see gasoline come down below $2 a gallon again. That will happen.

Without even taking a side in the muck of presidential politics, it’s plain to see how ridiculous this statement is. As Politico helpfully notes:

Bachmann didn’t detail how she would cut the price of gasoline, which is tied to the global price of oil. [Emphasis added]

Personally, I think gas should probably be taxed to a point where Americans pay about what the rest of the world does, in order to pay for the externalities of oil consumption. Most auto execs agree, arguing that America’s artificially low gas prices play hell with product planning. But even (or is that especially) if you’re a hard-core anti-tax free-market fundamentalist, Bachmann’s statement should be treated with scorn. After all, markets, not presidents, should be setting oil prices. But what’s principle (or even good practice) when compared to the need for political pandering?

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Are You Ready For: The Thorium-Laser-Steam-Turbine Electric Powertrain? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/08/are-you-ready-for-the-thorium-laser-steam-turbine-electric-powertrain/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/08/are-you-ready-for-the-thorium-laser-steam-turbine-electric-powertrain/#comments Thu, 11 Aug 2011 17:12:09 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=406683 Steampunks and Atomic Age nuts rejoice! WardsAuto reports that Connecticut-based Laser Power Systems is “getting closer” to developing a prototype electric car which develops its power using the radioactive heavy metal Thorium. According to LPS’s CEO, when thorium is heated by an external source, it becomes so dense its molecules give off considerable heat. Small blocks of […]

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Steampunks and Atomic Age nuts rejoice! WardsAuto reports that Connecticut-based Laser Power Systems is “getting closer” to developing a prototype electric car which develops its power using the radioactive heavy metal Thorium. According to LPS’s CEO,

when thorium is heated by an external source, it becomes so dense its molecules give off considerable heat. Small blocks of thorium generate heat surges that are configured as a thorium-based laser… These create steam from water within mini-turbines, generating electricity to drive a car. A 250 MW unit weighing about 500 lbs. (227 kg) would be small and light enough to drop under the hood of a car… Because thorium is so dense, similar to uranium, it stores considerable potential energy: 1 gm of thorium equals the energy of 7,500 gallons (28,391 L) of gasoline. Prototype systems generate electricity within 30 seconds of firing a laser. This can feed power into a car, without the need for storage.

What about radioactivity? LPS says Thorium’s low levels could be blocked with aluminum foil. Yes, tinfoil.  Terrorism? Because the Thorium is not superheated, it does not produce fissile material. Where does Thorium come from? Let’s just say the US has the world’s largest known reserves. General safety? The U.S. Geological Survey’s former senior advisor on rare earths calls the concept “both plausible and sensible.” So why aren’t we driving around thorium-laser-turbine EVs already? According to LPS CEO Charles Stevens.

“The issue is having a customized application that is purpose-made,” he says, admitting that developing a portable and usable turbine and generator is proving to be a tougher task than the laser-thorium unit.

“How do you take the laser and put these things together efficiently?” he asks rhetorically. But once that is achieved, “This car will run for a million miles. The car will wear out before the engine. There is no oil, no emissions – nothing.”

Sounds great… but we’re not holding our breath just yet.

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Fun With Front Wheel Drive! http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/08/fun-with-front-wheel-drive/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/08/fun-with-front-wheel-drive/#comments Sun, 07 Aug 2011 22:20:04 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=406215 What does one say about a clip like this? Besides, perhaps, that I hope you all are enjoying your weekend as much as this guy. Meanwhile, hit the jump for what I believe to be the inspiration for this “project” (if, in fact, it was inspired by more than a bottle of vodka)… Possibly one […]

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What does one say about a clip like this? Besides, perhaps, that I hope you all are enjoying your weekend as much as this guy. Meanwhile, hit the jump for what I believe to be the inspiration for this “project” (if, in fact, it was inspired by more than a bottle of vodka)…

Possibly one of my favorite James Bond car chases, from A View To A Kill, features Bond commandeering a Renault 11 taxi cab, only to have its top and back end end spectacularly (and utterly implausibly) knocked off. Is there an older reference point for this, the most under-appreciated ability of front-drive vehicles? If so, I’m not aware of it… but I bet someone out there is.

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What’s Wrong With This Picture: Two Mules, One Market Edition http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/07/whats-wrong-with-this-picture-two-mules-one-market-edition/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/07/whats-wrong-with-this-picture-two-mules-one-market-edition/#comments Thu, 28 Jul 2011 23:29:10 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=404677 As we’ve already seen, BMW is building a record number of variants of its next-generation 3 Series, including “GT” hatchback and X4 “Sport Activity Coupe.” But as this photo shows, there is at least one other Dreier bodystyle that we hadn’t heard about yet: the long wheelbase sedan (top). Given the brand’s post-Bangle swing towards […]

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As we’ve already seen, BMW is building a record number of variants of its next-generation 3 Series, including “GT” hatchback and X4 “Sport Activity Coupe.” But as this photo shows, there is at least one other Dreier bodystyle that we hadn’t heard about yet: the long wheelbase sedan (top). Given the brand’s post-Bangle swing towards extreme styling consistency, the decision between a LWB 3 series and a 5 series seems to have serious head-scratching potential… but it’s not something we’ll have to worry about. The LWB sports sedan will only be sold in China, according to Auto Motor und Sport, where upmarket buyers favor chauffeurs… even in the Ultimate Driving Machine.

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What Happened To Hybrid Kinetic Motors? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/07/what-happened-to-hybrid-kinetic-motors/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/07/what-happened-to-hybrid-kinetic-motors/#comments Thu, 28 Jul 2011 20:51:28 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=404669 Remember Hybrid-Kinetic Motors, the hugely ambitious venture by former Brilliance Chairman Yung Yeung that was supposed to build 300k physics-defying hybrids per year at a brand-new $1.5b Alabama factory (with the modest goal of producing a million vehicles per year by 2018)? H-K Motors was never taken very seriously here at TTAC, and despite appearing […]

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Remember Hybrid-Kinetic Motors, the hugely ambitious venture by former Brilliance Chairman Yung Yeung that was supposed to build 300k physics-defying hybrids per year at a brand-new $1.5b Alabama factory (with the modest goal of producing a million vehicles per year by 2018)? H-K Motors was never taken very seriously here at TTAC, and despite appearing to be a visa scam, the firm signed a $500m design deal with Italdesign/Giugiaro, and was reportedly working with a German engineering firm… and Alabama’s Baldwin County sure took the firm seriously. Unfortunately, al.com reports that

In 2009, Chinese company HK Motors had taken notice of the megasite and announced plans to build a $4.36 billion green energy automobile manufacturing plant that would employ 4,000 workers.

Under a plan unveiled two years ago, the Pasadena, Calif.-based subsidiary of Hybrid Kinetic Group Ltd., of Hong Kong, would start production in Baldwin County in 2013. The cars built there would run mainly on compressed natural gas, backed up by electric batteries and a small gasoline tank.
The company announced that it expected to build 300,000 vehicles each year at the outset, with production increasing to 1 million by 2018 by 5,000 local employees. The company purchased a battery manufacturer and other component businesses in subsequent months.

But local officials said last month they would be marketing the site to other companies with HK Motors apparently unable to secure financing for the venture.

I’m sure nobody’s surprised by this at all… after all, I never found anyone who believed a word of the Hybrid Kinetic mumbo-jumbo. But what reminded me of the H-K fiasco, and what led to me to find that it had officially abandoned Baldwin County (after it shouldered $70k in surveying costs, no less) was news that a hybrid van manufacturer is setting up shop in St Louis, which has lost Ford and Chrysler plants. What reminded me of the H-K situation? “Emerald Automotive Limited,” which is promising 600 UAW-represented jobs and gas- and diesel-electric delivery van production by the end of next year, doesn’t have a freaking website. That’s never a good sign…

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Stump The Best And Brightest: How Did This Opel Vivaro End Up In Illinois? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/07/stump-the-best-and-brightest-opel-vivaro-in-illinois/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/07/stump-the-best-and-brightest-opel-vivaro-in-illinois/#comments Tue, 26 Jul 2011 23:49:23 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=403899 I spotted this Opel Vivaro CDTI on the University of Illinois campus. How did this apparently-European vehicle end up in Illinois?  Opel’s website suggests that they don’t do business in Canada, but this Vivaro has Quebec license plates, and a stuffed animal in the window that suggests it is a personal vehicle. Does anyone have […]

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I spotted this Opel Vivaro CDTI on the University of Illinois campus.

How did this apparently-European vehicle end up in Illinois?  Opel’s website suggests that they don’t do business in Canada, but this Vivaro has Quebec license plates, and a stuffed animal in the window that suggests it is a personal vehicle.

Does anyone have any idea how such a vehicle could end up legally touring the American Midwest with Canadian plates?  What say you, readers of TTAC?

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