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Andrew Dederer

By on February 4, 2007

04_crv_23222.jpgYears ago, when I was not yet twenty I drove my brother between my parents’ homes, a distance of five hundred miles each way, with no back-up but a gas card and some loose change. Although the journey passed without incident, it was a nerve-racking experience. My upbringing had taught me that there’s a thin line between farce and tragedy, between going to the ends of the earth and being stranded in the last place on earth.

By on December 23, 2006

bus222.jpgMy friends frequently tease me about my automotive taste. It’s not my passion for stupidly expensive high-performance sports cars, or my weakness for brash, flash, trash. It’s my ongoing affection for supremely ugly yet practical vehicles that triggers their head-shaking scorn. Dude, you like a minivan? Luckily, I have a ready defense that usually shuts them up. I tell them that when I was a kid, our family car was a Microbus. 

By on December 14, 2006

rover_75_122.jpgWith cars and trucks piling up, it’s looking like the Daimler/Chrysler merger/takeover is on the skids. Mergers are always tricky in the auto business. It can work– if both sides put forth an effort. Unfortunately the DCX mess looks rather familiar…

By on December 10, 2006

2001fordtaurus232.jpgFor the second time in less than two years, I’ve been relegated to rental car Hell. My normal ride is busy recovering from a rear-end encounter initiated by a young driver in iffy conditions. Previously on “This Is Not Your Beautiful Car,” I sampled one of the last of the great V8 Interceptors– I mean, the Pontiac Bonneville. It was so large– on the outside– that I was constantly checking the rear-view mirror for Tomcats auguring-in for a landing. On the inside, it was plush and chock-full of gadgets. But it was also more cramped than an Olympic swimmer after a seven course meal. This time ‘round I got sentenced to an 05’ Taurus.

By on December 1, 2006

dr-z222.jpgHistorically speaking, Chrysler’s desire to keep pace with Ford and GM has kept the company perched on the brink of disaster. In his magnificent Motown expose “The Reckoning,” author David Halberstam devotes a couple of chapters to the "Crisis Corporation's" perennial woes. Halberstam describes the corrosive effects of the automaker’s sales bank, where vehicles were built, registered as sold and held in vast lots– until reality caught up with book-keeping. The practice was eventually abandoned. As you’ve just read, it’s baaaaack.

By on November 29, 2006

corporate_bill_ford_jr_ford_motor_co22.jpgReporters love newsmakers who address their problems without buzzwords and spin. Such people are rare birds in the automotive industry, a veritable snake-oil pit of truth-stretching and delusional thinking. For car hacks desperate for quotes sans Kool-Aid, William “Bill” Ford has been a godsend. Whenever the Ford family scion addresses The Blue Oval’s challenges or an automakers’ responsibilities in a modern society, Mr. Bill speaks with clarity, vision and passion. Now that Ford’s new CEO Alan Mulally has gathered-up the reins of power, it’s a good time to assess Bill Ford’s tenure at the top.

By on November 15, 2006

bridgend_engine06722.jpgIf you want to buy a Honda Civic or Fit in the US, you’ll probably go on a list and pay full price. With such success you might be surprised to learn that Honda has decreased its US Fit allocation and reduced Civic production at their East Liberty Ohio plant. Honda’s also changing over one line in its Canada plant to make Civics and moved part of their Pilot production to their minivan plant in Alabama. All this shuffling seems more like three-card-Monte than modern manufacturing. But there are trade-offs. Honda is willing to trade basic efficiency for manufacturing flexibility, which keeps plants running steadily, which ultimately leads to greater efficiency.

By on November 4, 2006

generalleechevy222.jpgI remember my Dad carrying me out to a little greenish-yellow station wagon when I was two. We had that car a little more than a year and that’s my only memory of it. This puts me in rare company: one of the few Americans with a positive memory of a Chevy Vega. My parents would not be in that group. One rear end collision and one melted engine, and the Vega was gone. If I missed out on the joy of picking rust scabs, at least I got to sample the full majesty of the Chevette. Was it a bad car? Was it a match for the Vega? To steal a line from “Bloom County,” it wasn’t that bad, but Lord it wasn’t good.

By on October 25, 2006

x04pn_az001222.jpgAutomotive history is littered with titanic failures. For every hot-selling Mustang, there’s a hatful (hateful?) of Vegas, Pintos, Excels, Yugos, Edsels and, of course, Azteks. From its introduction until its timely demise some four years later, the Pontiac Aztek SUV was the subject of journalistic dog-piling and a thousand weak jokes. But really, does it belong in this infamous company? The answer is a bit complicated; the Aztek was certainly a failure, but not exactly in the way you might expect.

By on October 23, 2006

airflow22.jpgAs the launch of Ford’s new Edge illustrates, the Big Two Point Five’s next “great white-walled hope” is something called the “cross-over.” It’s not a traditional SUV and it’s not a road-hugging car. It could be a station wagon on stilts with [optional] four-wheel drive and maybe even a hybrid powerplant, but it’s definitely not for towing [much] or plugging [deep] mud or surmounting [any] boulders. From the waves of hype you’d think this less-than-genetically gifted half-breed was a revolutionary development. Actually, it’s a vehicle design from the second half of the last century.

By on October 19, 2006

center.jpgFor any journalist covering the American auto industry, The Big Two Point Five's insularity is a constant source of amazement. And so it has been, for well over six decades. Over the last forty years or so, the names have changed, but  the message hasn’t. The party line: “foreign” cars are a fad (especially the small ones), ours are as good as if not better than theirs, prosperity is only a couple of cars away and, oh yeah, it's all the union’s fault. One insider coined the perfect term for this combination of reckless denial and mindless optimism: “Grosse Point Myopia” (GPM).

By on September 13, 2006

eagle22.jpgThe history of the domestic automobile industry is a history of mergers and acquisitions. When times are good, the big fish eat the small fish. When times are tough, the big fish go to school. Witness Ford’s SUV-financed spending spree (Jaguar, Land Rover, Aston and Mazda) and the Daimler/Chrysler and Renault/Nissan mergers. At best, the long-term track record for acquisitions has been spotty, and alliances are equally likely to end in tears. So why do automakers persist?

By on August 24, 2006

15-07-tundra222.jpgTiming is. Everything. Case in point: Toyota is about roll out its re-designed Tundra. The full-size pickup represents a huge investment for the automaker, including a brand new factory deep in the heart of Texas. By all accounts, the new Tundra will hit the market just as “lifestyle” load luggers have left the building, abandoning the genre for smaller, more fuel efficient machines. But as bad as Toyota’s timing may be for their corporate aspirations, it's worse for the so-called domestics.

By on July 31, 2006

ssr-jpg22.jpgWhen Alfred P. Sloan took the reins at General Motors, he had a clear vision of the company’s future: “a car for every purse and purpose."  Sloan’s business model– offer customers a wide range of vehicles across distinct brands and encourage them to move “up” within the portfolio– was wildly successful.  GM soon replaced Ford as US market leader, and never looked back.  Ninety years later, the same structure is in place, but the car market has changed.  And GM’s portfolio is part of the problem, not the solution.    

By on July 22, 2006

spanky.jpgWhen I got my driving license, I couldn’t vote.  Legal drinking was a distant speck on the horizon.  But I didn’t care.  I was captain of my own ship, master of my own destiny.  Within a few months, the parental units provided regular access to the family hatch.  I treated this gift as a matter of life and death, because, well, it was.  By that time it was clear that my friends’ driving habits were the greatest threat to my continued existence.

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