Between the Lines

A look into the oft hidden collusion between carmakers and the automotive press

BMW 2 Series April's Fastest-Selling Used Vehicles

April’s fastest-selling used vehicles were led by the BMW 2 Series, according to iSeeCars. The 20 fastest-selling used vehicles averaged 28.7 days, 1.2-1.7 times faster than it took to sell an ordinary used vehicle. The fastest-selling used vehicles included a mix of sports cars, luxury vehicles, hybrids, and minivans.

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California PHEV Owners Return to Gas Power

Electric vehicles are one way to carbon neutrality. Yet 20 percent of California PHEV owners have gone back to gas-powered vehicles.

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Matchbox Moves Towards 100% Recycled Materials

Matchbox is headed towards 100 percent recycled, recyclable, or bio-based materials by 2030. Is this the end of die-cast cars as we know them?

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Welcome to Electric Avenue — More Chargers on the Way

The Electric Highway Coalition, a consortium of six utility companies, will provide a network of 20-30 minute DC fast chargers for EV drivers, as reported by Electrek. Each of the utilities will be responsible for providing EV charging within their service areas, with most sites located along major highways for easy access and adjacency to other amenities.

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Are Consumers as Resilient Amid the Pandemic as Ford Says?

The ninth annual Looking Further with Ford Trends Report has us asking if consumers are as resilient amid the pandemic as Ford claims. The study expresses how COVID-19 has wrought economic, political, and emotional woes, testing the limits of individuals, families, healthcare systems, and society. Focusing on global trends to understand shifting consumer behaviors, it measures how far we’ve come, and where we’re going. This year, the OEM also examined how resilient people are.

“COVID-19 has changed us – but to what degree?” said Sheryl Connelly, Ford’s global consumer trends and futuring manager.

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1984 Honda Accord and 2018 Tesla Model 3: Selling Cars You Cannot See

Electric automaker Tesla Motors has collected more than 400,000 deposits from customers for its 2018 Model 3 sedan, despite having little more than rough renderings of the car to show prospects. This is a remarkable achievement that speaks to its groundbreaking products and the cult-like following of Tesla CEO Elon Musk.

People standing in line to put down deposits and then be willing to wait for a hot car is not without precedent. I sold Honda automobiles during the 1980s and the similarities to today’s Teslamania is striking.

Memo to Musk: If you can indeed increase your production five-fold in two years, I am sure you will move 400,000 Model 3s, but most of them won’t go to today’s deposit holders.

Allow me to explain. The scene was Benson Honda in San Antonio. The year was 1984 …

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The Tesla Roadster "Bricking" Story Deconstructed

I was originally hesitant to jump on the Tesla Roadster “bricked batteries” bandwagon, and my initial story was written with a sort of cautious neutrality. Further context will be provided by the details that have surfaced in the 24 hours since the story broke. Hope you’re ready to dive in to it all.

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IIHS Study Loves Red Light Cameras, Says Americans Do Too

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

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

And what did they find?

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

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

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Are Fat People Driving Up The Price Of Gas? Are They The Source Of The Greenhouse Effect?

Yes, and yes, says a study of the Resources for the Future (RFF) institute. The Washington think tank’s study examined “the unexplored link between the prevalence of overweight and obesity and vehicle demand” for bigger and more gas guzzling cars.

RFF brands itself as a “nonpartisan organization that conducts independent research.” Their study found “that the prevalence of overweight and obesity has a sizable effect on the fuel economy of new vehicles demanded. A 10 percentage point increase in the rate of overweight and obesity among the population reduces the average miles per gallon (MPG) of new vehicles demanded by 2.5 percent, an effect that requires a 30 cent increase in gasoline prices to counteract.” Basically what they are saying: Fat people choose fat cars. More fat people, more fat cars.

Shame on you if your belly keeps you from reading the numbers on the bathroom scale, you are driving up the cost of our gas, fatso. If you would eat less, we would pay less. If the study is correct.

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Between The Lines: Them's The Brakes, Corvette ZR1

Though an objectively awesome car by any (non-environmental) metric (review forthcoming, I promise) some Corvette ZR1 owners are plagued with a strange brake vibration. Which, thanks to the Corvette Forum, is available for all and sundry to see. But let’s dig a little deeper: bearing in mind the customer involved is a personal friend, and his paraphrased comments are as follows.

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On Detroit's Guzzling Ways

One of the more admirable qualities of the blogging culture is a relentless underdog streak. Anyone who mans the ramparts of a decent blog is forever scouring the worlds of business, media and opinion for an opportunity to attack the most prominent voices of the day. And TTAC is no exception: we certainly came up by attacking the apologists and Polyannas who are still massively overrepresented in the world of automotive commentary. But what a difference a bailout makes. While the mainstream automotive media spent much of the leadup to the auto bailout making apologies and excuses for Detroit’s decline, TTAC told the unpleasant truth, gaining us new readers and credibility every step of the way. Now that I find myself being asked to contribute to one of the most prestigious opinion outlets in the world (the NY Times op-ed page) on a regular basis, TTAC is no longer the underdog, and other blogs have stepped into the breach to attack us as the new status quo. Fair enough… let’s do this thing.

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Sex And The Common TTAC Reader, Kinsey Edition

Yesterday, we ran a story about Art Ross. Ross was the Oldsmobile Chief Designer in the post WW II heydays. He was also a prolific and gifted pornographer. Cars and sex have always been related for some reason. Did you know that in Germany, where the car was invented, “Verkehr” can mean both “traffic” and “intercourse?” I render the guess that there are more people that begun their life by the dashboard light than those who passed away in the passing lane. Many are convinced that autos have aphrodisiac qualities. Many heavily object and say that a car is just a conveyance. Then there are some who think cars are just as vile as porn, and both should be banned. Where does the dear TTAC reader stand in this discussion?

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Between The Lines: Smarter Than Luxury?

Is going Between the Lines this time ‘round more like shooting fish in a barrel? Let’s find out with the latest ad campaign from Lincoln, as covered by the Detroit Free Press:

Ford said today it is rolling out a new ad campaign for its Lincoln brand with the tagline “Smarter than Luxury,” and starring John Slattery, who portrays Roger Sterling in the TV series “Mad Men.”

There’s an ironic element there, considering the behind-the-scenes marketing dialogue seen on the TV show. If the boffins at Lincoln chose “Smarter than Luxury” over everything else, I gotta know what they passed on. Perhaps “Lincoln: Our Stuff Looks Like Poop Dung” was already under consideration for the Lincoln Log people.

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Between the Lines: For Police, Every Week Is Panther Appreciation Week

A crop of new police cars drew more than 400 law enforcement officials to Chrysler’s proving grounds in Chelsea today to see the Michigan State Police put the cars through acceleration, braking, high-speed handling and other tests.

This article isn’t gonna end well for Ford, and not just because it’s Panther Appreciation Week here at TTAC.

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Between the Lines: Corvettemegeddon!

One of the world’s foremost authorities on Automotive Journalism recently got their hands on a trio of Corvettes just for fun. But what unfolded was on the verge of hilarity, if not for their self-proclaimed journalistic superiority over us “punk kids with lots of servers and a desire to get free test drives.”

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Between the Lines: Wither The V8?

As we all know, those oblivious to history are bound to repeat its mistakes. Longtime readers also know I’ve gone down this road before, but the powers of my Twitter news feed shoved extra grist into this particular mill. Behold: Alain Raymond’s blog about the death of the V8 engine. Raymond’s weakest argument revolves around one fact: V8’s did lose mainstream appeal shortly after the demise of the Butterfly Collar. But Alain wishes to beat this dead horse for some misguided reason.

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Between The Lines: Pete Mateja's Auto Industry "Myths"

People do the right thing, unless money and power is involved. From the highest paid executives to the lowest ranking newbie, money and power is a motivator. Those in positions of accountability are held to a higher standard, and post-bailout Detroit is not immune to criticism. But in an act of corporate cheerleading, Pete Mateja’s Internet flamebait at Automotive News [sub] titled “Detroit had lousy management — and other myths that need debunking” shows how the “experts” got it wrong.

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Editorial: Between the Lines: GM BOD Chairman Ed Whitacre's "Satisfaction Guaranteed" Ad
First of all, I don’t have the embed code for this ad. For some reason, GM hasn’t sent it to TTAC and it’s not on YouTube. To see the ad, c…
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Editorial: Between the Lines: Detroit News: Ford Gets Its Sexy Back
I’ve been harping on about the media’s “Ford didn’t take bailout bucks” meme for some time. Commentators have slated me for sla…
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Editorial: Between The Lines: New GM's First Press Release

I once asked a priest about confession. What was the point? I knew Catholics who’d sin, confess, sin, confess, wash, rinse, repeat. “It’s not a ‘get out of hell free’ card,” he insisted. “Confession means you fully acknowledge your sin, pledge to atone for the harm you’ve caused, promise God that you’ve learned from your mistakes and change your behavior.” Let’s say you do all that and commit the same sin. What good’s an unrealized promise? “None,” he said. “I have refused absolution to repeat sinners because I didn’t believe that they were ready, willing or able to abandon their sins.” And there you have it: New GM’s recipe for disaster. Let us turn to the first sentence of New GM’s first press release.

The new General Motors Company began operations today with a new corporate structure, a stronger balance sheet, and a renewed commitment to make the customer the center of everything the new GM does.

Leaving aside the fact that GM’s opening proclamation makes no mention of its bankruptcy, or what led to its bankruptcy, how can New GM claim it has a new corporate structure? Fritz Henderson was the CEO of Old GM. Fritz Henderson is the CEO of New GM. Mark LaNeve was Old GM’s VP of sales and marketing for North America. Mark LaNeve is New GM’s VP of sales and marketing for North America. Old GM’s ex-Car Czar Bob Lutz has been reinstated as New GM Car Czar. Meet the new boss . . .

Actually, GM is now run by the federal government, under the watchful eye of a twenty-five member, politically-appointed “Presidential Task Force on Automobiles.” As much as Old GM’s management needed a right royal arse kicking—which, as stated above, this isn’t—I still can’t see GM nationalization as something worth celebrating.

Sure, GM’s balance sheet is stronger than it was before the government assumed control. And yes, New GM is “only” carrying $11 billion worth of debt. But any realistic appraisal of its balance sheet must consider cash flow, current assets and future prospects.

New GM’s brands and product plans are in complete disarray. With the exception of its pickup truck, GM’s products are class-trailing. Incentives are high and getting higher (i.e. margins are low and getting lower). GM’s killer apps are, as always, on the horizon.

Meanwhile, when exactly was GM last committed to its customers? Before they allowed [now-bankrupt] Bill Heard Chevrolet to screw every single person that darkened the dealership’s doors because the man moved mountains of metal? Never mind because . . .

“Today marks a new beginning for General Motors, one that will allow every employee, including me, to get back to the business of designing, building and selling great cars and trucks and serving the needs of our customers,” said Fritz Henderson, president and CEO.

Somewhere in the back of my mind, I hear Elton John’s “I’m Still standing.” But if New GM’s so new, why are we getting the same old song and dance from its old—I mean, previous and current, CEO?

“One thing we have learned from the last 100 days is that GM can move quickly and decisively,” said Henderson. “Today, we take the intensity, decisiveness and speed of the past several months and transfer it from the triage of the bankruptcy process to the creation and operation of a new General Motors.”

Here we are again: faster, deeper, harder, oh baby! Anyone remember Chrysler’s contention that speed was the primary advantage of private equity ownership? That didn’t turn out so well. Besides, does anyone really believe that a government-owned General Motors (with the aforementioned twenty-five member oversight team) will be faster than Ye Olde GM?

As I’ve said before, GM’s problem is not speed. It’s direction. GM still doesn’t have a coherent plan for their brands or the models within. Or do they?

“Our goal is to build more of the cars, trucks, and crossovers that customers want, and to get them to market faster than ever before.”

More, faster. See how that works? Or, in fact, doesn’t?

“The success of our recent launches and the exciting new vehicles and technologies we have in the pipeline are evidence of our ongoing commitment to excel at everything we do,” said Henderson. “Our goal is to make each and every General Motors car, truck and crossover the best-in-class.”

According to Fritz’s previous pronouncements, GM’s whittling itself down to 39 nameplates. What are the odds that all of them will be best-in-class? But hey, Fritz feels me.

“Beginning next week, we will launch a ‘Tell Fritz’ website where customers, or anyone else, can share ideas, concerns, and suggestions directly with senior management. I will personally review and respond to some of these communications every day.”

Glasnost at GM? Sounds good! But then, confession is good for the soul. As long as it’s genuine . . .

[NB: Fritz is having a webchat on the FastLane at 4pm EST]

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Editorial: Between the Lines: GM Does Not Welcome Its New Governmental Overlords

Well, the worm has turned properly on government intervention in the auto industry, as General Motors now seems to fear a government takeover more than bankruptcy. Too bad the choice isn’t either-or. Recent 10-Q filings with the SEC indicate that GM accepts the inevitability of a Chapter 11 filing, but describes the ramifications of a possible government ownership stake with fear and horror. “In the future we may also become subject to new and additional government regulations regarding various aspects of our business as a result of the U.S. government’s ownership in (and financing of) our business. These regulations could make it more difficult for us to compete with other companies that are not subject to similar regulations,” figure GM’s professional worrywarts. These still waters of paranoia run deep.

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Editorial: Between the Lines: Car and Driver Camaro Vs. Genesis Comparo
Even the most even-handed comparison tests reflect a specific set of specifically weighted criteria. Then there are those that aren’t even-handed. Car…
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Editorial: Between the Lines: MaryAnn Keller: Post C11 GM Needs A Road Warrior
Props to automotive consultant Maryann Keller for calling for GM to get its shit together, I mean “create a sense of urgency” since 1875, or ther…
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Editorial: Between the Lines: Motor Trend's Arthur St. Antoine Doesn't Own a Car
Motown’s top suits are insulated from “the ownership experience.” They drive carefully selected and prepped examples of their own product…
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Editorial: Between The Lines: GM's Volt Development Spin Cycle
Between The Lines: GM's Volt Development Spin Cycle
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Editorial: Between The Lines: AN Pimps for GMAC's CEO

Automotive News [AN, sub] does an excellent job covering the industry. Most of the time, AN is an unbiased if largely toothless conduit of autoblogospherical fodder. In other words, they report, we decide. But today’s column by Editor David Sedgwick is, well, appalling. No, really. I am shocked at the depths of disinformation, dissembling and, yes, dishonor to which AN and Sedgwick have sunk. “GMAC’s chief has a chance to earn his millions” begins by asking “Is Al de Molina worth $11.6 million?” The obvious answer has Will Smith written all over it: oh, HELL no. Unless, of course, you’re one of the Cerberus insiders who benefited from the Fed’s last minute rule change. You know, the one allowing GMAC to become a bank when it didn’t qualify for bank status. Oh, and then there’s Uncle Sam’s $6B GMAC bailout. So yes, I guess Al de Molina is worth the big bucks to someone. Sedgwick’s column, on the other hand, isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on.

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Between the Lines: USA Today's Flag-Waving Homo-Erotic Automotive Flashback
USA Today’s car coverage is normally a fairly sensible part of a fairly sensible newspaper. But the Motown meltdown has created major distortions in t…
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Editorial: Between The Lines: President Bush's Bailout Defense
President Bush’s radio address this morning: “Good morning. For years, America’s automakers have faced serious challenges — burdensom…
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Between the Lines: Jalopnik's Ray Wert Writes "Case For Rick Wagoner"
Between the Lines: Jalopnik's Ray Wert Writes "Case For Rick Wagoner"
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Between The Lines: Automotive News' "The Cost of GM's Death"
Between The Lines: Automotive News' "The Cost of GM's Death"
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Editorial: Between the Lines: David Cole and the Bridge To Nowhere
David Cole is the man whose industry and union-funded Center for Automotive Research carried-out a study of the economic implications of Detroit’s melt…
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Editorial: Between The Lines: Barack Obama's Shot Across Detroit's Bow
Between The Lines: Barack Obama's Shot Across Detroit's Bow
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Editorial: Between the Lines: How Detroit Drove Into a Ditch
Editorial: Between the Lines: How Detroit Drove Into a Ditch
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Editorial: Between the Lines – Wall Street Journal Goes Jenkins Jr. Crazy
Editorial: Wall Street Journal Goes Jenkins Jr. Crazy
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Editorial: Between the Lines – Throwing Chrysler to the Wolves
Editorial: Between the Lines - Throwing Chrysler to the Wolves
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Between the Lines: Jalopnik's Ray Wert on GM – Chrysler Merger
Between the Lines: Jalopnik's Ray Wert on GM - Chrysler Merger
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Between the Lines: Chrysler's Electric Vehicle Charade
Between the Lines: Chrysler's Electric Vehicle Charade
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Between The Lines: Bob Lutz's "Working Hard on Tomorrow, Today"
In 2001, Robert A. Lutz jumped on the GM gravy train as the automaker’s vice chairman of product development. Since then, The General has continued its…
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Between the Lines: Motor Trend Disses BMW. Ish.
Source Interlink Media owns Motor Trend magazine. Both conglomerate and car mag are heading south, quickly, in a big way. Ad revenues and circulation are in…
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Between the Lines: Berkowitz Hits the [Toyota] Open Road
As GM’s FastLane and GMNext blogs have demonstrated, the U.S. automobile industry has fully embraced the concept of blogging– as press release. T…
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Between The Lines: MT's Angus MacKenzie's on GM's Sinking Stock Price
Angus MacKenzie did everything but call TTAC by name in his essay GM Shares Tumble. So What? Yes, the Motor Trend scribe can “almost hear the Detroit d…
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Between The Lines: A Look Into Bob Lutz' Mind
Bob Lutz tell the world what's on his mind
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Between The Lines: New York Times Op Ed "Et Tu Toyota?"
The New York Times may be called The Old Gray Lady, but I reckon it’s one of those old gray ladies you find lingering at lunch counters, constantly sti…
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Between The Lines: James May on American Cars and Food
Top Gear (TG) presenter James May’s nickname is Captain Slow. As you’d expect from a country where sarcasm is a team sport, the moniker disses Mr…
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Between the Lines: Lexus' F Ad
During my brief stint in British advertising, I had the distinct pleasure of working with one Paul Harvey Douglas. Paul was the world’s best headline w…
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Between The Lines: Motor Trend on the 2008 Subaru WRX
As Motor Trend (MT) and its buff book brethren hemorrhage readers and cash to the Internet, they’ve reacted in the only way they know how: by kow-towin…
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Between The Lines: AutoWeek's Long-Term Jaguar XK-R
Press cars are specially selected, carefully prepared and meticulously maintained. Why wouldn’t they be? You can hardly expect a manufacturer to pluck…
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Between the Lines: Former Tesla CEO Martin Eberhard's Email to Roadster Customers
This website has been skeptical of Tesla Motors’ claims for their lithium-ion-powered Roadster since day one. While some readers think we’ve &ldq…
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Between the Lines: Car and Driver on the New Cadillac CTS
Aside from ad revenue, why would a car magazine want to position itself as a cheering section for General Motors? Well exactly. Car and Driver’s Septem…
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  • Tassos While Acura was the first Japanese attempt to sell 'luxury' (or "premium") vehicles in the US market, and despite its original good success in the near-luxury segment with the Legend and the far smaller and less expensive Itegra (a glorified Civic), it later lost its momentum and offered a series of underwhelming vehicles. It sure is not a LUXURY maker, and as long as it offers FWD or AWD and NOT RWD vehicles, it will never be taken seriously as a serious sports cars maker. Infiniti is much worse, and if both of them go under, few will notice. Lexus was more successful, offering pimped up TOyotas for 10,000s more, but there is NO vehicle in their lineup, esp now that they scewed up the only serious entry (the LS), that I would care to consider. AND I say all this as a very satisfied owner of 5-speed Honda coupes and hatchbacks (a 1991 Civic hatch and a 1990 Accord Coupe).
  • Mike Beranek Yet another reason to accelerate the transition to electric vehicles charged with energy from wind & solar with modern, non-Monty Burns nuclear as a backup.
  • Tassos The cap the timid Western Europeans agreed to, a HIGH $60, which still lets Putin make a TON of billions of $, was way too HIGH. Ukraine correctly complained about this, it had asked for a $20 cap, I believe.
  • FreedMike "...I wouldn’t recommend holding your breath until fuel prices drop."Regular is $2.87 at my local gas station today. Considering that it was over four bucks this summer, I'd call that a drop. And it happened with the war still going on, the GOP not taking over Congress, Dark Brandon in the White House, and the Theoretical Keystone Pipeline still being canned. Imagine that. And I wonder if poor Slavuta has broken out the "will rap for food" sign yet.
  • THX1136 I would imagine the caps will have minimal impact. Putin is going to do what he wants to do regardless of how the citizens of his country fare.