For better or worse, a lot of people in this business on all sides (journalist, analyst, PR, pundit) tend to use any given auto show's press conference schedule, along with the type of debuts that occur/news that is made, as a metric for the health of the industry.
One of the most infuriating things about this job is watching the media scratch its head about why roadway fatalities keep going up when the answer is as plain as the touchscreens on their dashboards. Modern vehicle interfaces are much more cumbersome than their predecessors and yet we’ve seen years' worth of coverage offering all the insight or a shrug. While there are certainly other reasons crashes have spiked (e.g. drug and alcohol abuse), the alluring tablet located next to your steering wheel has been the elephant in the room nobody was talking about — not with the seriousness that is deserved.
But things could be changing.
Motor 1's John Neff recently wrote a screed defending the proliferation of screens in cars, and as he anticipated in his concluding paragraph, his take went over about as well as a stinky release of flatulence during high tea with the royal family.
Automotive enthusiasts and journalists, as well as consumers, pushed back hard, at least from what I saw on the socials.
Amazon is reportedly dumping famed auto writer Jeremy Clarkson over his having made jokes about Meghan Markle late last year. Though it’s only a rumor at present and seems like the streaming service may just be attempting to appease the offended parties until all is forgotten. Unspecified sources have told Variety that Amazon won’t be working with the host beyond the seasons of The Grand Tour and Clarkson’s Farm that have already been commissioned – providing a buffer period for tempers to cool and memories to fade.
Maybe it’s just automotive Stockholm Syndrome, but after 15 years of testing vehicles, a huge percentage of which have been crossover SUVs, I’m ready to say it: Crossovers aren’t so bad.
Yeah, I know, you’re going to ask me to blink twice if I am OK, but hear me out.
I was sitting in line for a car wash this morning, readying a test vehicle for photos, and since the line was long and moving slow, I started perusing Twitter on my iPhone while listening to the radio.
The same phone that was plugged into the Ford Maverick’s USB port so that I could run Apple CarPlay.
It’s become something of a mantra for me, lately, but that doesn’t make it any less true. It goes like this: Electric cars aren’t coming, they’re already here. And, depending on who you ask, they’ve been here – they just haven’t quite made it into the mainstream, yet. With the dawn of the Rivian R1T ( which became the first full-size electric pickup to reach series production earlier this month), though, a lot of people would have you believe that’s set to change. I happen to be one of them.
Software updates. Precisely when we had to start having a conversation about software updates – over the air or otherwise – in an automotive context isn’t something I can answer. We didn’t have them for about 100 years. Then, we did. What’s more, it seems like everyone is more or less OK with that, but should they be? Are these software updates really making your car better, or are they slowly throttling back your car’s performance and functionality in a bid to frustrate you into buying a new one?
Let’s take a few minutes to explore the possibilities.
Since last night’s unveiling of the 2023 Nissan Z, I’ve been chewing over my thoughts on the car. Is it good, or is it another misfire from a brand that’s struggling to recapture glory days?
After exerting far too much brainpower on the question — I’d rather ponder what’s for lunch — I’ve arrived at my answer.
There’s a great scene in The Commitments where Jimmy Rabbitte, the main kid, puts an ad in his local paper to recruit talent for his band. If you’ve never seen the movie, it’s definitely worth the two-hour – a er, commitment (sorry), but that’s off-topic. Rabbitte puts out this ad, and would-be musicians knock on his door. When he opens the door, he asks them one question: Who are your influences?
It’s a great question, isn’t it? It cuts through lots of the usual interview BS and small-talk and hand-wringing and gets right to the meat. In The Commitments, the right answers were Al Green, Wilson Pickett, and Otis Redding. Over at Hyundai/Kia, however, it seems like the right answers were Lancia Delta, Lancia Stratos, and Porsche 959.
What the heck is Jo talking about this time? I’m glad you asked.
The current $7,500 Federal electric vehicle tax incentive could get a boost to $12,500 if the “Clean Energy for America” bill ever makes its way to reality – but it’s absolutely the wrong way to go, in my opinion. And, I know – “Who cares what Jo thinks about EV incentives,” right? Right –except that very, very few people in the industry have as much “green cred” as I do, so maybe you’ll want to give this one a read.
The Fast and Furious franchise gets a lot wrong when it comes to tuning cars – but what thing it gets mostly right is the spirit of family that comes with that lifestyle.
Yesterday, I got Musked*.
I wrote an op-ed about how I think the Cybertruck won’t sell well over the long term, though I do expect it to sell strongly at first. I said it might be the first real flop from Tesla.
Perhaps predictably, it caused quite the stir among the company’s fans on Twitter.
Tesla’s Cybertruck is in the news again, thanks to some (on paper) comparisons between it and the Rivian R1T and news about a deal with Samsung for cameras for the truck.
I’ve been thinking this for quite some time — since the unveiling, really — and the more I see the truck in the news, the more I think it might be Tesla’s first true flop as a model.
A little under two weeks ago, yours truly wrote about President Joe Biden’s plans for cutting tailpipe emissions and helping to encourage the shift to electric vehicles.
I laid out three basic philosophies that are at play in the debate as to how best move consumers en masse from internal-combustion-engine cars to EVs.
A few weeks ago, Ford took the wraps off of a new, “right-sized” pickup for the 2022 model year called the Maverick. The truck is different. For one, it’s a unibody design with four doors and a bed that’s integrated into the cab, not separate. For another, it’s a hybrid — which, I dunno. That seemed kind of brave, for Ford. It seemed brave enough to me, at least, to inspire me to take a closer look at the little truck’s specs … and that’s when I noticed that the new Maverick isn’t that little after all.
In fact, at 199.7 inches long, the new “compact” Maverick is a full two inches longer than the 1992 Ford F-150 “full-size” half-ton pickup.
That’s about a quarter of the number of GOP pols who voted against certifying Biden’s win.
Like most automotive journalists — and car enthusiasts in general — I have three ways of goofing off online that involve the cars. One is reading sites like this one. Two is building and pricing cars from mild to wild — from affordable to only if I win the lotto — on manufacturer’s consumer configurators. The third is browsing the auction site Bring a Trailer (BAT) to see what’s for sale that day. Someday, the just-right Fox-body Mustang will be available and within my budget. Someday.
The word of the week has been Maverick.
The 2022 Ford Maverick has gotten plenty of coverage on this site and elsewhere, plenty of buzz on Twitter, and every auto journalist I know, self included, has strained to find the best joke referencing either Top Gun or a ’90s Western comedy starring Mel Gibson and James Garner (both flicks are excellent, by the way).
I want to be excited by this truck. I should be excited by this truck. And yet, my prevailing feeling about it could be summed up by a gif of a shrug.
Golf legend Tiger Woods was involved in a nasty one-car accident yesterday. He survived, but he suffered serious injuries, and his golf career might be in jeopardy.
Not long after my social feeds lit up with the news, I came across a tweet in which it was clear that he was driving a Genesis GV80. One that bore the logo of a recent golf tourney on its door. Woods had apparently been loaned the car by Genesis.
This one has little, if anything, to do with politics, so you can relax and cancel out that angry email you were about to send me.
Nope, this one has to do with the misinformation circulating about autonomous cars.
Last night’s Super Bowl got out of hand about as quickly as the newsman fight in Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy.
This meant that I, watching the game home alone since Super Bowl parties aren’t safe these days, turned to the ads to keep myself entertained. Sadly, with a few exceptions, most were as stinky as the game itself.
The ones that were supposed to be funny mostly weren’t, the emotional/inspirational ones were mostly fine but unmemorable, and the one that was so bad that I think it was intentionally terrible for the sake of virality was just annoying.
You’ve probably seen a certain Mercedes-Benz ad this year. Or maybe in years past – I think the ad in question ran last year, as well, and maybe even before then.
It’s a holiday ad featuring one of the brand’s luxury SUVs and advertising a winter sales event for Mercedes.
French hot hatches. Affordable full-size wagons. Manual-shift rear-wheel-drive sports sedans under $30,000. Production versions of the Chevrolet Code 130R, Dodge Hornet, and Ford Start. The reincarnation of Isuzu’s VehiCROSS and Trooper. Standard-of-the-world Cadillac sedans and ordinary BMWs that drive as well as modern Cadillacs. A hiatus on coupe funerals.
My unrealistic auto writer’s Christmas wish list could go on forever. Much of it is based on nostalgia. Some of it simply isn’t cognizant of current market trends. A healthy portion of it simply denies the lack of performance-oriented interest among 2020’s car buyers. The remainder shows a lack of gratitude for the spectacular automotive era in which we live.
But what about realistic hopes of what could be gifted to the auto enthusiast community in the new decade?
This is my realistic Christmas wish list for 2020, not for me personally but rather for the North American auto industry as a whole.
I mentioned it before, when ripping that Ford ad that got me riled during an NFL Sunday, but I still strongly believe the Ford Mustang Mach-E shouldn’t have “Mustang” in its name.
(Yeah, it’s Mach-E week around these parts. If you couldn’t tell. More to come on the Mach-E later today or next week.)
A while back, I penned a piece describing my mixed feelings about NASCAR running without fans during the pandemic.
Now, a few weeks on, I have a bit more clarity.
I was worried that even with NASCAR’s safety protocols in place, the coronavirus might spread among crew. I was also worried about contact between the safety crews and a driver after a crash that could lead to virus spread (this worry didn’t make the final edit).
During my wayward youth in the Aughts/early this decade, a friend of mine decided it would be funny if he got me involved in a weird little bar game called “icing.” The idea of this game was to order your friend a Smirnoff Ice surreptitiously and/or hide it somewhere, and when he received the drink he must drop to one knee and chug it. There may be other variations to the game, but that’s all I recall.
Like many things that happened culturally during that decade, icing was quite stupid. Stupid as it was, it was also relatively harmless. The “iced” got a free drink out of it, even if it was a terrible vodka drink, and everyone else got a laugh. The late Aughts were such innocent times.
Fast-forward a decade and now there’s a new type of “icing” afoot, though it’s now called “ ICE-ing.” It has nothing to do with booze, but it still involves bros.
Jaguar has delivered its first I-Pace electric crossover in North America, a little ahead of next month’s retail sales, to a picture-perfect family living in Florida. Who are these fortunate environmentalists? None other than Lakewood Ranch residents Mark and Holly Pascarella, according to Jaguar Land Rover’s Tuesday press release and the multitude of auto outlets that reported it as news without commentary.
“When you have a family of five you always need space, so we were looking for an SUV,” explained Mr. Pascarella. “We’ve always had a seven-passenger SUV, but one of my daughters just went off to college, so now a five-passenger SUV will be large enough. When I looked at the I-PACE I could see that it was a typical first-class product made by Jaguar, with top of the line appointments and great looks. It doesn’t look like a typical SUV, and on top of that, being electric was very appealing.”
Based on Mark’s very natural and clearly unprompted manner of speaking, it certainly sounds like the perfect automotive product for families living in a city with an average household income of $100,991 — which, coincidentally, is exactly the case in Lakewood Range, Florida. Plus, it has that coveted electric appeal, allowing you to indicate you’re environmentally conscious when you aren’t firing up your other Jaguar’s 5.0-liter V8 every morning.
It’s starting to feel like people in the automotive industry simply cannot help but blurt out ludicrous claims involving a hypothetical future nobody on the outside seems to care about. These people, in charge of the the automobile’s ultimate form, appear to be so singularly obsessed with the vague concept of “mobility” that they can’t imagine any other alternative.
This week’s example came from Simon Humphries, the new general manager of Toyota’s advanced R&D, who mused about a tomorrow that didn’t need mass-market models. However, we’re not satisfied to condemn the design chief. Media outlets deserve a share of the blame for promoting these concepts without much logical backing.
On Friday’s “Real Time With Bill Maher,” the titular host said something pretty dumb about cars, driving, and the stunt driving seen in car chase movies that have graced movie screens for ages.
It’s not the most galactically stupid thing he’s said this year – that award goes to use his use of a racial slur while interviewing a sitting U.S. senator – but it was so off the mark that I felt compelled to rant.
In the interest of disclosure, I generally like Bill Maher. I don’t watch every week, but I catch the show when I can. Politically I agree with him on some things and not others (we’ll leave it at that), but as a TV host I find him to be relatively funny and smart, and I applaud his willingness to invite folks from all political stripes onto his show.
However, he can be smarmy, and occasionally I wonder if his staff has fact-checked something he’s prattling on about. And sometimes he just goes off the rails.
Before joining the gang at TTAC, I was freelancing, and a lot of my work centered around electric vehicles. Which means I was reading and writing a lot about Tesla, especially during that time a few months ago when the small California-based automaker somehow became the most valuable automaker in the world, at least from Wall Street’s perspective, based solely on its potential.
Some of my work took me into the depths of the pro-Tesla blogosphere. While these sites can serve as valuable sources for news about the company, they also have an unabashed pro-Tesla stance. Objective, they (mostly) ain’t.
And that’s okay – while many, if not most, media outlets default towards being as objective as possible, there’s no rule stating that your blog or outlet has to be objective. It’s okay for HuffPo to be leftist and National Review to lean right. And so it is with outlets that cover Tesla – no one expects Teslarati to be critical of the brand.
It’s one thing to have pro-Tesla blogs, of course, but another to be unable to even talk about the brand without dividing into two tribes – the fanboys who think Tesla is the best company ever and can do no wrong (as it disrupts the industry and solves every one of the world’s problems), and the “haters” who think that Tesla is doomed to fail any day now and it’s a minor miracle the company has lasted this long.
Automotive television is, at best, a mixed bag. At worst, it’s a cultural wasteland of gimmicky programing that persists only because of our deep love for cars, bolstered by a handful of engaging personalities. Suggesting that I am generally dubious of any new car-related entry into the entertainment landscape would be a gross understatement. So, when the rebooted Top Gear America aired over the weekend, my expectations were already incredibly low.
I suppose the nicest way to phrase this is by saying it did not exceed those expectations.
While it attempts to capture the magic of vintage Top Gear in much the same way the current British version strives to, the first episode fell far short of the mark. Whether that’s down to the hosts not having adequate time to develop legitimate chemistry or a systematic flaw in the show’s design remains to be seen. But something is definitely wrong here.
Episode One felt extremely awkward, although not entirely hopeless. And I’ve reminded myself that I didn’t much care for Richard Hammond the first time I saw him on the screen, either. Fast forward 15 years and I enter into a panic every time he’s in a scrape, terrified that God might take that adorable little man away from me.
The shopping center had seen better days.
Most of its smaller spaces were vacant, long since abandoned with only the leaves left scuttling about on the breeze to give the empty storefronts the illusion of life. Now, only the anchor stores remained. On one end of the complex, a dollar store. It somehow managed to look even more run down than most and had perhaps a dozen cars parked out front. At the other end, a cut rate supermarket — one of those places that sell mostly canned food and dried goods on the verge of expiry — had a dozen more cars sitting at its doors.
Much to my disappointment, a Chrysler 300M was among them.
The North American Car and Truck/Utility of the Year finalists were announced Tuesday and clearly the jurors read our September handicap — and completely mostly disregarded our odds.
According to jurors, the finalists for 2016 North American Car of the Year are the Honda Civic, Chevrolet Malibu and Mazda MX-5 Miata. The finalists for the 2016 Truck/Utility of the Year are the Volvo XC90, Nissan Titan XD and Honda Pilot. The winners will be announced at the North American International Auto Show in January.
Let’s review the finalists and definitively state in each capsule why that car will absolutely win:
We tend to armchair quarterback what’s wrong with specific automotive brands quite a bit in the TTAC comments. Meanwhile, there are people in the real world who get caught up in what’s actually wrong with some of these brands’ products by buying them — for example: the Buick Regal GS.
I owned a 2013 Regal GS manual, bought brand new in Jan 2014 and sold (at a loss) on December 31 2014.
This should be good.
You’d think that, after all these years, I’d have a tougher skin for people who say stupid things on the Internet. And I’m pretty good about that, but now that I own a Tesla, it strangely gets under my skin when people write ill-informed drivel about the car. Here at TTAC, we’re all about well-informed drivel. It’s a subtle distinction, but we’re proud of it. Anyway, here’s a bit of unfortunately typical writing, found on a random Internet chat board (not TTAC, because the B&B would never stoop to this). All grammar and spelling have been left untouched.
Tesla interior is junk far away from luxury. BMW 335i has better interior design, and 550i in whole different league. Road noise, cheap panels, flimsy speaker grille, seat comfort, ceiling height, sound quality (premium sound!!) all materials that tesla uses belong to 20$K Honda. So rest of money goes into battery price.
Let’s break this down, shall we?
At yesterday’s Google I/O keynote speech, Google laid out its vision for Android Auto (reported here yesterday), which is quite similar to Apple’s CarPlay. I’ve ranted here before about Apple’s CarPlay when it was first announced and after more details came out last March. Both have the idea that your phone can hijack the screen in your car. What’s newsworthy from Google is that we have an enlarged list of vendors who are playing along. ( Wired has the full list. Suffice to say that you’ll have plenty of choices if you want a car that goes both ways, if you know what I mean. Most interesting factoid: Tesla isn’t playing with either Apple or Google. Hear that? It’s the sounds of thousands of alpha-nerd Tesla owners crying out in terror.)
Today, I want to address why you should stop worrying and learn to love having your phone in charge of your car’s telematics display.
Image courtesy of tofugu.com
I hear the SEMA show was last week. You know the SEMA show, right? It’s that important aftermarket manufacturers’ show held each autumn in Las Vegas where various companies try to pitch their products to customizers and retailers. Like all good automotive trade shows, SEMA features hundreds of companies and dozens upon dozens of custom vehicles. The fancy, hand-built cars draw people to the displays and form a pretty canvas on which a company can display its wares. But like any fashion show there is a hidden truth. The special parts on this or that big-name builder’s hot rod won’t have the same effect on your own, more mundane vehicle. No, for most of us beauty is an illusion; the phrase “lipstick on a pig” exists for a reason.
A tailgater is a bully par excellence and his weapon is the “I’m not touching you” game. You remember that game, don’t you? It’s the one where your older brother tries to hit you as hard as he can but always manages to miss by a fraction of an inch. When you flinch or complain to your mom the refrain is always the same: “I never even touched you.” Of course, to keep things interesting, sometimes he does actually hit you – if he always missed you’d have nothing to fear, right? On the road the game is almost exactly the same and nine times out of ten the bully never hits you. But once in a while – once in a great while – it’s “metal up your ass.”
Photo courtesy of GMauthority.com
So I read earlier this week that Bob Lutz is saying that the US Government killed Pontiac. He says that GM had big plans to rescue the struggling brand with innovative, rear-wheel designs that included small performance cars that would have set the Germans back on their heels. Had these plans come to fruition, he hints, enthusiasts would have been busting down the doors and the brand would have quickly returned to good health. Sounds like new golden age for Pontiac was just around the corner. And it would have worked too, if it weren’t for those meddling Feds. That’s what Bob says anyhow, but I’m not so sure. The way I remember it, I had a hand in killing Pontiac, too.
I’ve been visiting junkyards and sharing what I find here on TTAC for several years now, and one of the best things about doing the Junkyard Find series has been reading the crypto-novellas (each a little story about the junkyard car I’ve photographed) penned by our own Crabspirits in the comments. We’ve already talked to Mr. Crabspirits about doing some writing for us under his own byline, and he says he’s up for it, but there’s no need to wait in order to enjoy his stuff. I’ve gone through some recent Crabspirits Junkyard Find Tirades™ and assembled them here for your reading pleasure.
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- Bd2 Other way around.Giorgetto Giugiaro penned the Pony Coupe during the early 1970s and later used its wedge shape as the basis for the M1 and then the DMC-12.The 3G Supra was just one of many Japanese coupes to adopt the wedge shape (actually was one of the later ones).The Mitsubishi Starion, Nissan 300ZX, etc.
- Tassos I also want one of the idiots who support the ban to explain to me how it will work.Suppose sometime (2035 or later) you cannot buy a new ICE vehicle in the UK.Q1: Will this lead to a ICE fleet resembling that of CUBA, with 100 year old '56 Chevys eventually? (in that case, just calculate the horrible extra pollution due to keeping 100 year old cars on the road)Q2: Will people be able to buy PARTS for their old cars FOREVER?Q3: Will people be allowed to jump across the Channel and buy a nice ICE in France, Germany (who makes the best cars anyway), or any place else that still sells them, and then use it in the UK?
- Tassos Bans are ridiculous and undemocratic and smell of Middle Ages and the Inquisition. Even 2035 is hardly any better than 2030.The ALMIGHTY CONSUMER should decide, not... CARB, preferably WITHOUT the Government messing with the playing field.And if the usual clueless idiots read this and offer the tired "But Government subsidizes the oil industry too", will they EVER learn that those MINISCULE (compared to the TRILLIONS of $ size of this industry) subsidies were designed to help the SMALL Oil producers defend themselves against the "Big Oil" multinationals. Ask ANY major Oil co CEO and he will gladly tell you that you can take those tiny subsidies and shove them.
- Dusterdude The suppliers can ask for concessions, but I wouldn’t hold my breath . With the UAW they are ultimately bound to negotiate with them. However, with suppliers , they could always find another supplier ( which in some cases would be difficult, but not impossible)
- AMcA Phoenix. Awful. The roads are huge and wide, with dedicated lanes for turning, always. Requires no attention to what you're doing. The roads are idiot proofed, so all the idiots drive - they have no choice, because everything is so spread out.