By on February 18, 2011


With GM’s announcement of a new SYNC-competitor system, the issue of whether or not in-car connectivity systems are compatible with the government’s desire to reduce distracted driving has raised its head once again. So we put the question to you, our Best and Brightest: will the government ever step in to regulate in-car electronics? Should it? After all, distraction comes in all shapes and sizes… from fast food to in-car Facebook updates. Can the government draw a line between acceptable distractions and unacceptable ones? Will any government action actually make a difference in the statistics?

By on February 14, 2011

By on February 9, 2011

This ad, for the Chevy Camaro, was the most-watched spot during the Super Bowl, pulling in 119,628,000 sets of eyeballs according to the ratings agency Nielsen. A Chevy Cruze ad took second place in the “most-watched” category, and Chrysler’s much-chattered-about 200 spot tied for fourth (with 5 other spots, including one for Bridgestone Tires), with 17.565m viewers. In short, cars and car-related products not only accounted for many of the ads, they managed to snag the time slots where the fewest people were taking bathroom breaks or grabbing more bacon-wrapped buffalo wings. But remember, there’s more to effective advertising than merely drawing eyeballs…
(Read More…)

By on February 4, 2011

Ars Technica has a fascinating interview with Kaveh Hushyar, CEO of Telemetria Telephony, who argues

I believe in 2020, the car will drive itself. The infrastructure will be in place, and that infrastructure will be very significant and hefty. But in that target environment, you and I don’t have to be sitting behind the wheel. In that environment, everyone will be a passenger, and you want to have full connectivity with full access to any media, or any person anywhere via the best videoconferencing available. So you need a rich media experience in the car.

At the same time, there will be a significant amount of safety applications that will be running in the car, making sure that the car is fully protected and is communicating through the infrastructure to other cars. That would be the nature of how I see the driving experience transforming in ten years plus.

Obviously, as CEO of an in-car connectivity solution firm, Mr Hushayr is heavily invested in a driver-free future… but is his vision the product of more than just wishful thinking? I certainly have some difficulty imagining giving up driving before I turn 40… but then, I’m not sure that most of my peers would. Surf over to AT and read the whole interview before letting us know what you think.

By on February 3, 2011

Mike Jackson, CEO of AutoNation, one of the biggest auto retail chains in the country, argues [via Bloomberg] that lower inventories and more-efficient offerings have prepared the US auto industry for higher gas prices. As a result

Consumers are signaling it will take higher gasoline prices than the worst of 2008 to curb new- vehicle sales… The “freak-out number” at the gas pump is likely about $4.50 a gallon for unleaded regular

“A dramatic spike is not good for economy and not good for our industry, but we’re better prepared for it than we were in summer 2008,” said Jackson, 61. “Even though we’ve moved 40 to 60 cents higher at the pump in the past three months, we haven’t seen any change in consumer behavior.”

Interesting theory… but does it hold up for you? What are your “freak-out numbers,” and what will you do when gas prices hit them?

By on February 1, 2011


Poor Ford. As the latest sales data shows, its lone luxury brand Lincoln is one sick puppy. Lincoln’s best-selling vehicles are its entry-level models, the MKZ and MKX, indicating that killing Mercury still has yet to bring higher-end buyers to Lincoln showrooms. Higher-end products like MKS and MKT are dead in the water, failing to crack 1,000 monthly units combined in January. Pull out the dying Town Car and Navigator, and Lincoln moved less volume last month than the subcompact Fiesta. And though Ford acknowledges that it has a problem at Lincoln, managers have hardly been forthcoming about what it plans to do to fix the problem. Which, as far as TTAC is concerned is fine… Ford doesn’t have to convince us that Lincoln is coming back. It does, however, have to convince Lincoln dealers to stay on board… and because they’re playing with their own money, that’s a trickier task. Ford’s Jim Farley tells Automotive News [sub] that

My experience is that if you cannot show concretely that you have to spend x amount of resources and you get this out of it in terms of volume, margin and profit, they’ll never invest, no matter how much credibility we have

But will they invest without seeing product? Ford has announced that it won’t be showing new Lincoln products when it pitches dealers on the brand’s future at the upcoming NADA convention. But isn’t product the problem? Hasn’t product been the problem at Lincoln for years? Even if Ford commits significant resources to the problem, dealers have no way of knowing what that investment will actually yield. Need we mention the LS experiment?

Since Ford won’t make a solid pitch for the future of Lincoln, we’ll send the task over to you, our Best and Brightest. Short of mocking up prototypes, what products and promises does Ford need to make to get Lincoln out of the luxury cellar?

By on January 27, 2011

Andy writes in

Hi – I wonder if you can help a confused Scotsman who is coming across for a 3 week holiday (flying into Boston) in September.

Four of us are going to drive around New England and we would like to hire a comfortable SUV or Crossover but we are not familiar with your models.For example I could have gone for a Chevy Uplander but I understand it is a complete dog. In Scotland we have a Jaguar XJ and a Merc 320ML so we want something that drives nicely and preferably has ”armchair” type seats in the second row so that our wives don’t moan too much. Can you help??

By on January 20, 2011

By the time you read this, I won’t be at my computer any more. I’ll be nestled in the firm leather seats of a sportscar, blasting along the banks of the mighty Columbia in search of an empty road that winds up the walls of the yawning Columbia Gorge. I’ll be enthroned in the dark, yet airy cockpit of something so rare, kids in the backseat of every car I pass will get whiplash trying to catch a glimpse of the silver streak slashing its way towards the emptiness of Central Oregon. My telephone will be off, but I will be in deep communication with four wheels, four points of short-travel suspension, and the melodic rasp of six cylinders. I’ll keep the corner of one eye on the few important gauges that line my cockpit cocoon, watching as the needle on the engine oil temperature dial climbs to the point where my car’s engine shakes off the seasonal chill and sings the sadness of the world away. But, more importantly, I will be feeling that engine shake off the cobwebs of underuse, feeling its confidence build, feeling my consciousness fuse with the collection of metal and plastic that shelters me, womb-like, from the mundanity of everyday life.

By the time you read this, my car and I will be jinba ittai, or “person and horse as one.” We will be united, joined in our mutual lack of purpose. We will be headed nowhere in particular, and loving every minute of it. This is why I spent my savings on this odd-looking, impractical piece of engineering: my car is an escape vehicle from the abstract analysis and information overload that is my day-to-day existence. It connects me to one of the most important aspects of the automobile: its ability to connect with individual human beings. The ability to form, over the course of one glance or one corner, the kind of deeply intimate relationship we so struggle to form with our fellow men.

But as I’m downshifting into a corner, as I’m applying the gas and feeling the car beneath me wrestle with the invisible forces of gravity and inertia, something will be bothering me. Something will be breaking the spell cast by this marvelous machine and a challenging piece of road. I will be thinking about all the people leaving their places of work, hopping into their cars and joining the joyless grind on the interstate that will eventually carry them home. I will be thinking about the fact that there are so many more of these people, in their individual metal pods stuck to the conveyor belt of life’s daily commute, that the industry I cover must ignore my spiritual communion. The hermit in his used M Coupe does nothing to keep the lights on in the sprawling factories that, in turn, keep us supplied with the numb, emotionless appliances that are the lifeblood of the industry and modern American life. My disdain for the highly-engineered tedium of new D-Segment sedans never hired a single full-time worker, or reliably gave millions of people freedom from the tyranny of immobility.

Do consumers prefer boring cars? Has the industry forced them to choose the anodyne over the unreliable? Or are boring cars the inevitable result of modern development patterns and industrial logic? I don’t know. Right now, I don’t even care.Right now, I’m pushing just a little bit harder into the next corner, catching my breath as the beauty of nature falls away before me into a Cathedral carved by centuries of erosion. Catching my breath as molecules of rubber gasify, and my car and I thrill at the new high that our relationship has reached. You, on the other hand, might just have time to help solve this essential dilemma before you hop into your car and drive home.

By on January 19, 2011

Wheh, that’s a big question… and I was dismayed to see myself giving such a short answer to it in my Newshour appearance. There are a host of reasons for my swift “no” answer to that question… here are a few of them:

1: GM Doesn’t need saving. The Government “saved” GM.

2: The market projections for EVs are all works in progress.

3: GM isn’t actually committed to the electrification of the car. It’s committed to gas engines and transmissions and the idea of “range anxiety”… for its “electric car.”

4: If GM were committed to electrification, and that was a prudent business gamble, it would still be chasing Renault-Nissan just as Honda chased Toyota in the race for hybrid leadership not so many years ago. And like Honda, GM seems less committed (in the literal, mechanical sense) to the electric car than the emerging global leader, Nissan. Yes, the Volt is mechanical marvel, unrivaled in its complexity… but only because it clings to its gas technology. Honda’s hybrid half-step, never introducing an electric drive mode to its “mild” hybrids, seems pragmatic by comparison. Toyota’s sole ownership of the “hybrid halo” is instructive (and worrying for Toyota, considering it’s been taking a GM-esque tack towards EVs lately).

5: Even after GM starts selling tons of electric cars (in a scenario where that is indeed possible), it will be working uphill to re-establish consumer trust (in all its products) that was squandered over decades.

I could go on, but I’d rather hear your answers to the question.

By on January 18, 2011

With the recent arrival of the latest Evo Magazine at “TTAC Towers,” it seems that all hope for productivity today has gone out the window. Evo, the classiest car porn mag in the game (the lady and I enjoy reading it together, honest), has got its high-gloss gloves on both the reborn Lancia Stratos and the new Audi Quattro Concept… as well as the classic models that inspired them. So, while I’m desperately trying to ignore the British buff book’s retro-future write-up, riddle me this: if you could demand a born-again version of any classic car, what would it be and how would you bring it back to life? But before you answer, ponder for a moment these words from the definitive literary work on re-animation:

Invention, it must be humbly admitted, does not consist in creating out of void, but out of chaos; the materials must, in the first place, be afforded: it can give form to dark, shapeless substances, but cannot bring into being the substance itself. In all matters of discovery and invention, even of those that appertain to the imagination, we are continually reminded of the story of Columbus and his egg. Invention consists in the capacity of seizing on the capabilities of a subject, and in the power of moulding and fashioning ideas suggested to it.

By on January 17, 2011

Steve Edgett writes in:

Sajeev raised an excellent point in today’s piece on the 1974 Ford pickup regarding visibility. Like a few of the regular TTAC readers, I was driving when low belt lines and great visibility were considered cool, as well as functional. As much as I love my four year old BMW 3-series, I find the visibility out the rear to be atrocious. And, compared to a mid-80’s 3-series or a 2002, it is downright dangerous. How much of this bloat and reduced glass area is due to ”safety standards” and how much is fashion?

Because TTAC’s readers include both consumers of automobiles and the workers who design and build our four-wheeled friends, this seems like the perfect topic to settle in one of our friendly community discussions. After all, the most interesting questions about modern automobiles tend to come down to the chicken-and-egg relationship between the manufacturer’s ability to cultivate needs and sell the solution to them, and “true” consumer demand (as witnessed by the fact that neither side of this divide sees itself in as being “in the driver’s seat”). Certainly the Camaro pictured above points to the stylistic benefits of a tiny greenhouse: surely a Zeta-platform vehicle doesn’t need to have so little glass to meet crash test standards. At the same time, it’s likely not a coincidence that dramatic improvements in safety have been accompanied by a tightening of greenhouses.

So, to the designers and engineers in the house we ask: how important is reducing the amount of glass in a vehicle improve safety test performance? To what extent does this issue drive design? And to the consumers we ask: are you really asking for ever-tightening greenhouses in the name of fashion? Can you identify a point at which introducing more glass to a design makes a car look dorky but creating a tighter greenhouse hurts usability (and possibly even active safety)?

By on January 14, 2011

Reuters reports that GM is upping its sponsorship and promotional spending, as it seeks to re-establish its media presence which retracted considerably during and after its bailout and bankruptcy. In addition to boosting sports sponsorships and

co-producing TV shows, like a documentary about a year in the life of a Detroit fire station or a three-part Discovery series on the city,

GM has another strategy in mind as well: product placement for the Chevy Volt. According to the report

GM also is in talks with a reality TV producer about the inclusion of the automaker’s new plug-in hybrid Chevrolet Volt car in a show under development

but what about movies? After all, if Chrysler (which has plans for only one niche electric vehicle, the Fiat 500 EV) can feature heavily in a movie which was promoted using the line “Electric cars are gay” (see video above), surely GM could get a movie made called “Range Anxiety” in which the Volt rescues the President’s daughter from an evil, but range-limited foreign car by driving farther than 100 miles. Subtle, right? Why don’t I just stick to blogging and let you come up with Volt product placement ideas.

By on January 10, 2011

Chevy’s Volt and Ford’s Explorer won North American Car and Truck of the year, a result which surprised precisely nobody here at Cobo Hall. The Volt beat out Nissan’s Leaf and Hyundai’s Sonata, while the Explorer beat out Dodge’s Durango and Jeep’s Grand Cherokee. But forget the well-fed journos who make up the NACOTY jury… what is your car and truck of the year… and why?

By on December 29, 2010

It’s that time of year: the media dead zone between Christmas and the New Year, when traditional “news” and “content” gets laid aside in favor of lists of things that happened last year and might happen next year. We’re not great list-makers here at TTAC, and we’re still waiting on December sales data to sum up last year’s industry performances, so rather than offer our “top ten moments” and “trends to watch,” we’ll simply ask you, our Best And Brightest, to whip out your crystal balls (in a safe-for-work manner, please) and make a wild prediction about next year. Will gas prices spike or recede? Will trucks outsell cars again? Will GM’s stock hit the $53/share price needed to pay back taxpayers, or will more tax money be funneled to the automakers? Will the Chinese market collapse or carry on? Will Chrysler’s rushed updates like the 200 sell significantly better than last year’s equivalent models? Will the return of Fiat to the US market be cheered or ignored? Can we expect another big recall scandal next year, and if so, from whom? Will the Motor Vehicle Safety Act be exhumed and passed, or will it rest in peace? So many questions… time to start predicting!

By on December 28, 2010

TTAC will slow down for a hot minute as your humble editor makes his way to the County courthouse to pay a speeding ticket. And no, to those who might be wondering, this particular citation was not the result of some M-Coupe lunacy. I simply got busted doing 65 MPH while passing someone on a mountain highway that had briefly dropped to 45 MPH (while going through an alleged “town”)… and I was driving a Subaru Impreza 2.5. In short, there was nothing cool, fun, exciting or worthwhile about this particular transgression against the laws of speed. So I ask you, cheer me up with your wild stories of crazy speeding ticket-related encounters… remind this poor confused kid that speeding can be indeed be more than simply mundane.

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