Archive for Driver’s Seat

Where have all the Hummers gone?

Not every one, but certainly a lot of them, wound up in Ulaanbaatar, capital of Mongolia:

I saw dozens of Hummers every day in UB and no, it was not the same doing the rounds, I checked.

All models are represented, with the H2 being the most frequent. When riding my bike to Terelj National Park, I was even passed by a hugely huge H1 Alpha Wagon and it took both sides of the road to pass my tiny mountain bike! Scary. I also spotted a few pick-ups. One interesting fact in Ulaanbaatar is that a majority of these Hummers are driven by women. With 80% of the highest-ranking jobs in the capital held by women it makes sense that they drive one of the most expensive American vehicles around.

Is this the answer to “What would Genghis Khan drive?”

In 2010 Terbish Bolor-Erdene, a 30 year-old entrepreneur president of the Mongolia Hummer Club, said there are around 300 Hummers in Ulaanbaatar, a quarter of them sold through his dealership. This number could well have jumped to 500 or 600 today. “The Hummer started out as a military vehicle and we Mongols still think of ourselves as warriors. It’s just a perfect fit for our country and our people,” he said.

And if it’s not a Hummer, it’s a hybrid:

If the very high ratio of used right-hand drive Japanese imports in the streets of Ulaanbaatar was a logical continuation of what I had progressively observed as I traveled further East in Russia, the big difference is the extremely high occurrence of hybrid models, namely the first two generations Toyota Prius. It turns out that imported used hybrid cars are exempt from import taxes, but the very harsh weather Ulaanbaatar experiences during winter still makes it a puzzling choice.

Somehow hybrid cars and temperatures going down as low as -40° to -45°C seems to be an odd combination. But speaking with a few drivers in the capital city, they all told me one of the main advantages of owning a hybrid car and particularly a Toyota Prius is that they always start without a fault each morning in winter, no matter how crazy the temperature is. That is definitely not the case for non-hybrid cars, in particular the hordes of used and battered Hyundais I spotted all across the country.

There are, says the roving reporter, “thousands” of Prii in the Mongolian capital, and, to his surprise, rather a lot of these contraptions.

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UnCooperative

Have you ever been spammed by an auto dealer? Rob O’Hara has, and he’s tired of it:

I’ve had a gmail address for a long time — I got it back when gmail was invite-only, in fact. Shortly after signing up for gmail I began getting spam e-mails from a Mini Cooper car dealership located in Peabody, Massachusetts named Mini of Peabody. Just to be clear: I have no interest in Mini Coopers, have never owned one, never plan to, and never signed up for Mini of Peabody’s e-mail newsletter.

The monthly e-mails from Mini of Peabody are big and colorful and hard to miss. I deleted the first one and the second one and the third one. The e-mails suggested that I add [address redacted] to my address book to ensure that I received their e-mails, but instead I did the opposite and added [same address still redacted] to my spam list. I also clicked on the “report this e-mail as spam” button in gmail. Still, somehow, the e-mails get through.

You don’t suppose this might be some of Google’s doing, do you? I mean, gmail is at least as important to their world-domination schemes as the tracking cookie.

Anyway, their ideas are not intriguing to him, and he does not wish to subscribe to their newsletter:

Back then I was naive enough to believe that clicking “unsubscribe from this newsletter” worked. It doesn’t, or at least didn’t in this case. I clicked their “unsubscribe” button, followed the weblink, entered my e-mail address to remove it from their mailing list … and still, the newsletters came. I have tried this multiple times.

And finally:

In October of 2013, a representative of Mini of Peabody contacted me personally and said they would remove my e-mail from their mailing list. They didn’t.

I wonder if escalation might be useful here. Anyone had any experience dealing with BMW of North America?

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I just can’t recall anymore

Are we at the point where we don’t even notice a recall notice?

So far, 2014 has been a year of automotive recalls, beginning with the General Motors ignition recall. After just one company recalled 11 million vehicles, any other recalls just feel like piling on. Experts worry that consumers are starting to tune out and not pay attention to any recall announcements in the media at all.

Research by USA Today shows that most years, there are 21 million cars recalled in the United States by all automakers combined. In 2014, GM has announced 38 recalls totaling more than 14.4 million vehicles, and we’re not even halfway through the year yet.

Some years you don’t see 14.4 million vehicles sold in this country.

One market analyst for KBB told USA Today, “The typical consumer reaction seems to be, ‘My car’s running fine. Do I need to bother?’”

At the other extreme are the nimrods who hang around automotive message boards hoping, even praying, for new recall news, in the desperate hope that the repairs they need will be covered by the automaker. It almost never works.

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And lo, the meter shall run

Nissan has been calling it the Taxi of Tomorrow, and this is what it’s like:

2.0L 4-cylinder engine, a low-annoyance horn with exterior lights that indicate when the vehicle is honking, sliding doors with entry step and grab handles, transparent roof panel (with shade), independently controlled rear air conditioning with a grape phenol-coated air filter, breathable, antimicrobial, environmentally friendly and easy-to-clean seat fabric that simulates the look and feel of leather; overhead reading lights for passengers and floor lighting to help locate belongings, a mobile charging station for passengers that includes a 12V electrical outlet and two USB plugs, a six-way adjustable driver’s seat that features both recline and lumbar adjustments, even with a partition installed; standard driver’s navigation and telematics systems; front and rear-seat occupant curtain airbags, as well as seat-mounted airbags for the front row; standard traction control and Vehicle Dynamic Control (VDC), lights that alert other road users that taxi doors are opening.

Needless to say, this little darb is controversial. Consider, if you will, Greater New York Taxi Association v. New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission, which apparently has now gone as far as it can:

New York’s plan for a new fleet of cabs from Nissan Motor Co. is legal, an appeals court ruled, overturning a judge who said the city’s Taxi and Limousine Commission overstepped its authority by requiring owners to buy a specific vehicle.

The so-called Taxi of Tomorrow program is a “legally appropriate response to the agency’s statutory obligation to produce a 21st-century taxicab consistent with the broad interests and perspectives that the agency is charged with protecting,” Justice David B. Saxe wrote [this week] for the appeals court in Manhattan.

Nissan won a contract in 2011 valued at $1 billion over 10 years to supply more than 15,000 minivans with sliding doors, more luggage space and airbags in the back, for the city’s taxi fleet. The commission in September 2012 designated the Nissan NV200 as the official “Taxi of Tomorrow” and required owners of medallions, which confer the right to operate yellow cabs in New York, to buy the $29,700 vehicles.

What does Hizzoner think of this?

Mayor Bill De Blasio, who received more than $200,000 in taxi-industry donations during his campaign, said before taking office that he opposed the plan because not all cabs would be wheelchair-accessible. The proposal calls for about 2,000 of the taxis to be fitted for disabled riders.

But this, too, had apparently been settled:

U.S. District Judge George B. Daniels ruled in December 2011 that the commission subjects disabled people who use wheelchairs and scooters to discrimination in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The U.S. Court of Appeals in New York overturned Daniels’ ruling in June 2012 and found that the act doesn’t obligate the commission to require taxi owners to provide access for disabled people.

It seems to me that we could have avoided all this, or most of it anyway, by forcing Ford to keep building the Crown Victoria.

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Oily in the morning

I think this individual is looking for the wrong emollients:

Yahoo Answers screenshot: Many woman trust castrol oil for their natural treatment. What are benefits of castrol oil for woman?

Then again, it’s more than just oil: it’s liquid engineering.

[insert "Fram filter" joke here]

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Dialed in to ponies

We have here a Mazda MX-5 with the Mane Six gauge package:

Custom My Little Pony gauges for Mazda Miata

With thanks to the fandom:

The MLP fandom is awesome. Artwork exists for just about anything you can imagine. Cutie marks for the main characters? How many different file formats would you like? Exact color codes for every aspect of anything ever in the show? Yup, those are plentiful too. The fans really made this custom gauge design come together quick.

Apart from “WANT,” all I can say is “You should see these at night.”

And no, I don’t know where you could work in an Applejack reference. The Malfunction Indicator Light, maybe? “Sugarcube, Ah don’t know just how to tell ya this, but yer emissions are worse than Big Mac after a bucket of broccoli.” Eeyup.

(Via this @LazyGrayBrony tweet.)

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That’s a switch

The General Motors ignition-switch incident is growing like the Blob, and the part that perplexes me is that so much of it seemed avoidable. Yes, GM’s part-handling procedures seem dubious; yes, this debacle should have been dealt with before the rest of the world stuck its nose in. I admittedly never have owned one of the cars in question. But it never occurred to me that having the switch slide over from ON to OFF or ACC in the middle of the road was a death-dealing scenario.

Car and Driver’s July issue checks out the claims. They got themselves a Saturn Ion, one of the vehicles being recalled, and then rigged it to kill power assist to steering and brakes to simulate the problem. The results were not surprising: steering effort went up markedly, though not to a point where it couldn’t be dealt with, and braking effort quadrupled — once the vacuum was gone. It wasn’t on the first panic stop, because there’s a check valve in the line.

Still, neither of these is a problem if you simply restart the car, no trick if you remember that there’s an interlock and you have to shift the lever into neutral. Somewhere around ninety percent of panicky drivers, I suspect, will not remember that. (Trini, who actually owned one of these Ions, and was almost certainly aware of the vagaries of the car’s ignition switch, having replaced one once, would have; then again, she’s one of the least-panicky individuals on the planet.)

There remains the question of why the airbags didn’t deploy when Mr and Mrs Panicky hit the wall, but since there’s no legal specification other than “test dummies must not be subjected to this much force,” it’s difficult to compare notes among individual incidents. And I am reminded of my one and only Major Crash, out on a two-lane state highway in 2006, in which my car and a doe came to mutual death blows at an appallingly high speed. The airbags didn’t budge. Then again, I didn’t get so much as a scratch.

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Negatory on that Pontiactivity

This seems straightforward enough:

Yahoo Answers screenshot: Does Pontiac still manufacture cars?

And then this amazing statement followed:

I’ve rarely seen any Pontiac cars on the road lately. Are they still manufacturing cars? I need an answer OTHER THAN YES OR NO, I WILL NOT accept those as answers.

In which case, the most reasonable answer is “Bite me, Bat Boy.”

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Celling points

Three years ago, Hyundai announced that they’d build a thousand Tucsons with fuel-cell propulsion, the first batch of which would be in place by 2015.

They will be profitable, perhaps, but not because of their pricing:

While the first hydrogen-powered Tucson FCVs left the docks in California in the last week of May, Hyundai knows the vehicles aren’t meant to add to the company’s bottom line, but are meant to garner credits for future use.

WardsAuto reports the Korean automaker will earn as much as 26 CARB credits for every Tucson FCV leased through 2017, each vehicle equal to $130,000 in credit. Fuel cell boss Byung Ki Ahn believes his company could then sell those credits to automakers in need of offsetting their carbon footprint, though Hyundai has no plans on the table to do so at this time, preferring to use the credits for themselves for less compliant vehicles of their own design.

Ahn, at the time of the announcement of the program, said that Hyundai hoped eventually to be able to sell the Tucson FCV for $50,000.

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Spending above your weight

Message boards are full of people wanting to know how they can buy their Dream Car with the resources they claim to have, or expect to have. Invariably they can’t. This guy wanted a Ferrari 458 so bad:

Ok lets say I earn 80k a year Il wait a few years to actually buy the ferrari because I have to think about food clothes and stuff like that, how many years would it take to actully afford the car if I save some money to get it and would it be possible to actually get the car with 80k a year ?

Everyone told him no, it wasn’t happening, though some were more gentle than others.

This is what happens when you do overextend yourself in this realm. [Warning: some NSFW language.]

(Via Autoblog.)

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The new one-drop rule

Whatever the opposite of “booster” is, that’s what I am towards gasoline adulterated with 15 percent ethanol. I tolerate E10, since it doesn’t seem to have had any negative effects on my car as yet, but E15 I just don’t trust.

I hadn’t seen any E15 around town yet, so I had no idea how to respond to this:

But being me, I am required to get the facts of the matter, and they go like this:

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has mandated that all consumers in the United States must purchase at least 4 gallons of gasoline when they go to the gas station, if they are getting fuel from a pump that also offers a new E15 ethanol-gasoline blend.

The Obama administration wants consumers to use more of the E15 fuel — a blend that contains 15 percent ethanol — but the problem is that many gas stations use blender pumps, which offer several types of fuel and, after pumping, there always is a residual amount of fuel in the hose. E15 fuel can potentially damage engines made prior to 2000 and it cannot be used in motorcycles, ATVs, and many other engines, such as lawn mowers and boat engines.

So, to circumvent the potential problems, the EPA is requiring a 4-gallon minimum from blender pumps to ensure that any E15 fuel residue is diluted. (Stations that provide a completely separate, single hose for E15 only are exempt from the rule.)

The pump in the picture apparently vends both E10 and E15 — and possibly even E0.

My car, you’ll remember, was made in 2000. (Actually, it was made in September 1999, but it’s a 2000 model.)

The people most inconvenienced by this, I suspect, will be the ones who come up to you on the street and beg for gas money: they’re going to have to raise $15 or so to pay for four gallons’ worth.

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Yet no hose was gotten

What’s the point of having a humongously long warranty if you can’t find exceptions to it now and then? Motor Trend reports on their long-term Kia Rio (July):

The cabin’s build quality and materials are $18,794-appropriate, blighted by a peeling steering wheel rim first noticed at the 30K-mile mark, not unlike what affected our old long-term 2012 Hyundai Elantra. The local dealer’s reply, after explaining that it wouldn’t be covered under warranty: The wear is likely caused by lotions or other oil-based substances, which is ludicrous because many people use lotions, and 30K is barely any mileage at all.

You gotta wonder if Kia’s going to fix it anyway before selling the car as a CPO.

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Someone else, please

Have you ever heard of such a thing?

Seriously. They like the idea of being organized, but not through this organization:

Employees who want to unionize Alabama’s Mercedes-Benz auto plant say they no longer want to work with the United Auto Workers union to accomplish that goal.

A core group of pro-union employees has asked the UAW to stop campaigning at the German automaker’s Tuscaloosa County plant, because the current effort has gone on too long without success.

Now how could this possibly be?

At one point … the campaign had enough union authorization cards to legally file for an election, as more than 30 percent of the plant’s hourly production and maintenance workers had signed one.

But the UAW was pushing for a much higher percentage, 65 percent, because it wanted a sure win, they said. “It’s all about the image with the UAW, and it’s not about the workers.”

They’d like some other union to come in, though the AFL-CIO won’t permit that sort of thing.

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I don’t recall anything this big

A small number of owners of Nissan Leafs — for some reason I keep wanting to say “Leaves” — will be getting recall notices, and the official fix is about as broad as can be:

Nissan is recalling 211 Leaf EVs in the U.S. (and another 65 in Canada) built between February 28 and March 12 of this year to inspect them to see whether or not a series of six spot welds are present in the motor compartment. The welds in question are located on each side of the motor just above the sway bar ends. If the welds are there, then the vehicle is released to the customer with no further action required.

If the welds are missing, the situation becomes far more serious. According to the official recall notice from the NHTSA, if any welds are missing, the vehicle is to be replaced.

Yep. The whole car. Says Nissan:

The affected vehicles will be inspected and if the welds are missing, Nissan will replace the customer’s vehicle with a new one at no additional cost. It is anticipated that only a handful of retailed vehicles are affected by the weld issue and require vehicle replacement.

So far, no accidents have been reported.

(Via Fark.)

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Neither vile nor gossip

It doesn’t exactly take Malcolm Gladwell to predict that when there are four major automotive publications and only two owners, sooner or later there will be two major automotive publications and only two owners.

Two years ago, Road & Track’s southern-California offices were closed, and R&T had to more or less move in with Car and Driver. That was the first shoe. The second one, however, is a serious boot:

There’s been a big shakeup in the world of automotive media today, as Automobile’s parent company, Source Interlink, has shuttered the mag’s Ann Arbor, MI offices. Editor-In-Chief Jean Jennings has been fired, along with most of the publication’s staff. The news was confirmed by Jennings, who called it “business” in a conversation with Jalopnik.

Mike Floyd of Source Interlink-owned Motor Trend will reportedly take the helm at Automobile. Deputy Editor Joe DeMatio is expected to move to a Royal Oak, MI-based Source Interlink advertising office. According to Jennings, a few of the remaining employees will be relocating to Los Angeles, to be closer to Motor Trend.

I suspect this does not mean the actual death of Automobile, at least not yet: Source Interlink is rebranding as The Enthusiast Network, and they haven’t thrown Automobile off their brand-spanking-new Web site.

Still, I expect by 2020 there will be only Car and Driver and Motor Trend — and that at least one of them will have gone digital-only.

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Top-down vaporware

Way back in 2006, there was chatter to the effect that MG, having been acquired by the Chinese, were looking for a US assembly plant, and they were looking very hard at southern Oklahoma.

Nothing came of that scheme, under which MG TF (no, not this TF) coupes would be built in the States, and roadsters in China. But you can’t keep an ex-British carmaker down forever:

Edmunds reports exploratory design work for a sports car under the MG name has been placed on the 2014 schedule book in SAIC’s Shanghai design studio, with one of the possibly proposals being a roadster such as those in the brand’s history, as well as the spiritual successor found in the Mazda MX-5 Miata. The starting point for whatever is drawn up is the 2012 MG Icon concept.

In the meantime, MG Motor is looking to design and produce a wider mainstream collection, with design and engineering split between Shanghai and Birmingham, England. Eventually, this could lead to a return to the U.S. market, which is considered a long-term goal for the brand and its owner.

One could argue, I suppose, that the existence of the MX-5 makes any new MG roadster irrelevant, but hey, the Brits could use the jobs.

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The Saab story continues

Perhaps at last it is time for you to stop all of your Saabing:

China’s National Electric Vehicle Sweden (NEVS) has temporarily halted output of its Saab car due to a shortage of funds, it said on Tuesday.

NEVS, which last year resumed low-volume production of the car after it bought the bankrupt iconic Swedish marque, said it currently did not have enough cash to pay outstanding debt.

The plant in Trollhättan will be closed for approximately four weeks. NEVS blames Qingbo Investment Company, a financial operation owned by the city of Qingdao; Qingbo, which took a 22-percent stake in NEVS last year, apparently hasn’t met its financial commitment yet. On the other hand, NEVS, which was producing six cars a day, hasn’t delivered 200 cars ordered by Qingdao.

(Via Daily Kanban.)

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Look, Ma, no nothing

I have always suspected that rather a lot of our drivers are snoozing at the wheel, especially during rush hour, and we don’t even have any self-driving cars to speak of. California, of course, does; and, being California, it has developed rules for the little automated boxen:

Under new regulations, drivers (or riders as the case may be) will need to be official testers on a manufacturer’s payroll and go through a special training program to get a yearlong permit. They’ll also have to remain attentive behind the wheel — so no napping on the way to work yet — and notify the DMV if they’re in an accident or have to override the car’s manual controls for any reason. When it comes to cars, it’s not a free-for-all. Manufacturers will need to apply for a permit for each individual vehicle, and cars are required to have at least five million dollars worth of liability insurance.

None of this sounds particularly unreasonable, but if these things are going to flood the market eventually, the DMV will almost certainly have to cut the drivers (will we, or they, still call them “drivers”?) some slack.

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Gimme back my internal combustion

Our highly valued reader canadienne recently mentioned on these pages the joy of Tesla, as experienced by Model S owner Matthew Inman of The Oatmeal, prompting this complaint:

It’s an entertaining story even though I disagree with just about everything he says, mostly on account of the price tag, but also on the basis of it can’t be a real car because it doesn’t have a real engine and it doesn’t burn gasoline, but that’s just my 60 years of being in thrall to the American automobile industry. (I’m not sure ‘thrall’ is the right word, but work with me here, alright?)

See also Jagger, M., “He can’t be a man ’cause he doesn’t smoke the same cigarettes as me.”

And these people are getting away with murder, or at least with tax evasion:

Electric cars don’t use gasoline, therefore their owners don’t buy any gasoline, which means they aren’t paying any road use taxes! Unfair! Strike! Strike! Strike! If there were more than 2 or 3 of these things on the road this argument might carry some weight, but as it stands I find it hard to get worked up over it. After my initial outrage, anyway.

The real problem, however, is farther up the road:

The biggest problem with electric cars is that if they become successful they are going to make entire industries obsolete, which is going to throw more people out of work. Yes, new industries require new workers, but we see how well that has been working out. Not. If anything we need to go back to mechanical lifters so you would need to get your valves adjusted monthly, which would put a whole boat load of people to work, but then some wise guy would invent self-adjusting lifters and that would be the end of that. Oh, wait, that’s where we are now.

Of course, in the days when you had to take a shim to an offending lifter on a regular basis, we had a lot of people who actually knew how to do that. Today we trust our maintenance, such as it is, to a minimum-wage guy at the Spee-D-Loob, and we pester the clerks at AutoZone to come read our codes because we’d rather spend $500 for randomly selected parts we think hope will fix the problem than spend $120 for an hour’s worth of dealership diagnosis.

(My own automobile has twenty-four valves, and it takes about three and a half hours to check their clearance. I figure I’ll need this somewhere around the 200,000-mile mark.)

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Volume boutique

Toyota hasn’t yet pulled up stakes in Torrance and headed to Texas, but already their California operation has been eclipsed in size — by Tesla, which now employs 6,000 Californians, comfortably outnumbering Toyota’s 5,300.

Somehow this seems impossible, given Tesla’s occasionally parlous finances — much of their revenue has come, not from selling whiz-bang electric cars, but from trading California emissions credits — yet it is inarguably so. About the only automotive factoid that could shock me more would be finding out that Morgan, the 104-year-old maker of three-wheelers and wooden-framed sports cars that look 104 years old, or seventy anyway, is the largest British automaker still under British ownership.

Which, apparently, they are.

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Enough to last a while

In the best of all possible worlds, all automakers would have about 60 days’ worth of inventory on every model, according to automotive orthodoxy the right balance between supply and demand.

And then there’s Cadillac’s Volt Plus, the ELR:

The Cadillac ELR is shaping up to be one of the biggest automotive flops in recent memory — as of May 1, inventories had expanded to a 725 day supply, with Cadillac moving just 61 units in April.

At the start of April, dealers had 1,077 ELRs on their lots. As of May 14th, that number had increased to 1,517, with inventories far outpacing sales of the car.

In case there’s a run on this $80,000 version of a $40,000 Chevy, Cadillac is prepared. Otherwise, they’re screwed:

While a Cadillac spokesman insists that the inventory backup is a result of production scheduling, the rising inventories, lagging sales and heavy incentives paint a clear picture: the ELR is an overpriced dog that is finding few buyers compared to the much cheaper Chevrolet Volt and the much more prestigious Tesla Model S, to say nothing of the various plug-in and pure EV offerings from other car makers.

I’ve seen exactly one of these critters on the local roads, and this market has never been particularly Caddy-adverse; apparently we’re buying the CTS, which is a hair or three bigger — “bigger” counts for a lot when you’re talking Cadillac — and which costs maybe three-fifths as much on a slow day.

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The face of road rage

Every car has a face, says Jack Baruth in Road & Track, and lately, those faces look pissed off:

Why, exactly, does every new automobile with the slightest bit of aspirational positioning look furious for some reason? Why do they all have big open-mouthed faces full of sharp-looking toothy chrome? Why do they all have wrathful eyes with LED markers like murderous eyebrows?

It wasn’t always this way:

The faces can be froggy friendly, as was the case with the old Porsche 911 or its VW Bug ancestor. They can be reserved and serious, in the vein of the 1980s-era Rolls-Royce Silver Spirit. But when you look behind you on the freeway today, all you’ll see is anger.

It’s in the pickup trucks with their Peterbilt grilles and macho pretensions that would be hilarious if they weren’t attached to a 3-ton unguided missile sniffing your rear license plate. It’s in the big-nosed SUVs that seem to be continually frowning and squinting. Even the Toyota Avalon seems upset, possibly because the Hyundai Azera’s doing such a good job of imitating it.

Then again, even Porsche seems to have lost some sort of faith: the current 911s don’t look menacing, particularly, but every new Porsche has the name spelled out in the official logo on the decklid, lest you somehow fail to recognize it immediately as the work of Swabian elves. (Okay, the Cayenne comes from Bratislava, but my point stands.)

Still: why are these cars this way? Baruth thinks it’s demand:

The cars have to be vicious-looking and color-free because they’re being sold to people who wish to project that image. Your local cruising spot is chock-full of black Infiniti coupes with blacked-out windows and black-chrome replacement grilles. Somewhere in these TIE Interceptors are the drivers, who are often meek-looking, physically slight young men. They drive home at the end of each evening and park behind their exasperated mothers, whose Lexus RX and BMW X3 travel capsules show on their venomous visages all the fury that Zoloft represses for their owners. In traffic, they’re pressing on you, honking, waving, flipping you off, just absolutely engulfed in righteous annoyance concerning your refusal to let them cut in ahead when the lane ends.

One of the reasons I’ve held on to my extremely unblack Infiniti sedan is that it presents a relatively benign face to the world: it’s not trying to be anything other than a moderate luxoboat, despite Nissan’s “four-door sports car” yammering about sister Maxima. (That, and the lack of brightwork in the work areas: there’s a chrome bezel around the obligatory analog clock, something shiny around the shift lever that I never actually look at, and that’s it.) This is almost an argument for the last-generation Mazda3, with its slightly deranged grin.

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It’s that whole sliding-door thing

A fellow in Missouri who probably drives a Dodge Grand Caravan writes to the editor of Motor Trend about those wicked crossovers:

I love to speak to people who own these CUVs. I love to ask, “What kind of mileage do you get with your minivan?” The question is usually followed by a glare or quick reply of, “It’s not a minivan!”

Clearly, there is an issue here with self-esteem. What are they running from? Is my masculinity in question because I enjoy our minivan?

This was published in the June issue, page 42. On page 61 of the same issue is an ad for Grizzly long-cut snuff which says “Never let a minivan pass you on the highway.”

I believe he has his answer.

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A minor slip-up

I’ve been on the receiving end of exactly one automotive recall notice in my life, and I admit that I found it a lot more amusing than the government did. In ALL CAPS, the text thereof:

CERTAIN RESERVOIR TANK CAPS ON THE BRAKE MASTER CYLINDER WERE PRODUCED WITH A WORN OUT DIE AND LACK VENTILATION HOLES. AS A RESULT, THE PRESSURE IN THE RESERVOIR TANK CAN DROP GRADUALLY AS THE BRAKE PAD OR SHOE WEARS AND AMBIENT TEMPERATURE DROPS. ALSO, THE PRESSURE COULD REACH A POINT THAT THE BRAKE CALIPER AND DRUM CYLINDER ARE PULLED BACK BY THE VACUUM IN THE RESERVOIR TANK WHEN THE VEHICLE IS PARKED FOR A LONG TIME.

I duly presented myself to a Mazda dealer, who popped the hood and announced: “You have the good one.”

Mazda has had hard luck with spider-related recalls, but those could be reasonably defined as design defects, albeit tenuously. Sometimes, though, an automaker just flubs up:

The recall madness over at General Motors isn’t letting up anytime soon, as evidenced by this latest call-back of 8,208 Chevrolet Malibu and Buick LaCrosse sedans… GM issued a statement saying these sedans are being recalled due to “possible reduced braking performance,” according to Automotive News. The problem? Rear brake rotors may have accidentally been installed in the front brake assembly. And since both cars use more robust braking systems up front than out back, braking power could be reduced, increasing the risk of a crash.

All those rotors look alike, man. I duly looked up Gwendolyn’s OEM brake specifications, and they’re within 2 mm of the same diameter — but the front discs are nearly three times as thick as the rears. I can’t imagine the General popping for some combination more exotic than that.

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Poster boy for mansplaining

“How dare a mere girl drive something I want?”

Yahoo Answers screenshot: Why do women buy the most expensive model of cars?

To elaborate:

I just saw a girl in an SRT-8 Jeep, I do a lot of driving for work and notice women never seem to buy base models of cars. Guys tend to get what they can afford. Is it because women have other people making their payments or do they just not mind making a $1,000 a month payment for every option available?

Green’s obviously his color.

For ten points, what is the probability that this guy has ever had a second date?

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Darth Vader melted his brain

That may be the one and only explanation:

Turns out, among the things Alan Grayson is requesting from his estranged wife in his response to Lolita’s (yep, it’s still funny) divorce filing are a six-bedroom home and seven separate vehicles, including a mint condition, 1981 De Lorean.

Yes, a De Lorean.

Because, you know, the only people more underpaid than Congressmen — oh, the hell with it:

If the allegations of bigamy are true, it releases Grayson from paying alimony, and being as poor as he is (he’s only the 11th wealthiest member of Congress, with a net worth of $31 million) he could certainly use the break, though it probably doesn’t release him from paying child support for his small, ragtag band of children apparently named as environmentally-friendly X-Men characters or a second-generation Captain Planet cast: Storm, Sage, Skye, Star and Stone.

I’d ask “Where do they find these people?” but then I’d remember that “they” are in Florida.

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Truth is such a drag

I don’t believe this guy has thought things through:

I want to get a loan but they only give out auto loans to cars 2010 or newer. They car I want is year 2000. What if I lied to the bank and said it was a year 2010?

Because of course the bank is going to take your word over what the actual title says. Sheesh.

On the upside, Franklin Wickstrom, if that is your real name, you may have found your calling as a political operative.

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Not a high-beam in sight

We are told, over and over and over again, that women are being objectified to sell us stuff. The proper response to this, I submit, is “You’re just now noticing?”

From 1919, an ad, illustrated by the redoubtable Coles Phillips, intended to move automotive electrical equipment:

1919 advertisement by Coles Phllips for Autolite

Careful, mister, you wouldn’t want to hurt that sweet young thing in the short(ish) dress.

Coles Phillips (1880-1927) is probably best known for his negative-space illustrations. This isn’t one of them. Autolite (now a single word with a single capital) today makes spark plugs and wires under the auspices of Fram.

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Hand me another Corona

If this is true, California loses another one:

Unconfirmed industry rumors shared with TTAC today seem to indicate that Toyota Motor Sales will be closing its offices in Torrance [CA] and heading to a more business-friendly location. Plano, TX is the rumored destination.

I have my doubts. However, I question this for one reason and one reason only: from Plano, TMS could not support any nearby dealers, as Texas and four adjacent states are served by the independent distributor Gulf States Toyota in Houston, franchised by the mothership in Japan way back in 1969.

Update, 28 April: It’s official. From Toyota’s press release:

Toyota today announced that it is establishing a new headquarters in North Dallas (Plano), Texas for its North American operations in a move designed to better serve customers and position Toyota for sustainable, long-term growth.

Within the next three years, Toyota’s three separate North American headquarters for manufacturing, sales and marketing, and corporate operations will relocate to a single, state-of-the-art campus in Plano. Toyota’s North American finance arm also plans to move its headquarters to this new shared campus. Altogether, these moves will affect approximately 4,000 employees.

At the same time, Toyota will expand the Toyota Technical Center (TTC) in Michigan to accommodate the relocation of direct procurement from Erlanger, Ky., to its campus in York Township near Ann Arbor. This expansion is part of an increased investment in engineering capabilities and will accommodate future growth in product development.

The transition to Plano from three current headquarters locations — affecting approximately 2,000 employees at Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc. (TMS) in Torrance, Calif.; about 1,000 employees at Toyota Motor Engineering & Manufacturing North America, Inc. (TEMA) in Erlanger, Ky.; and certain employees at Toyota Motor North America (TMA) in New York, N.Y. — will begin with initial small groups this summer. However, the majority of these employees will not move until construction of Toyota’s new headquarters is completed in late 2016 or early 2017. Toyota Financial Services (TFS) is not expected to transition to Plano from its current headquarters in Torrance, Calif., until 2017, which will affect around 1,000 employees.

So there.

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Run-flatulent tires extra

The three-wheeler from Elio Motors, due next spring, has some interesting specifications:

Its first vehicle in development is a three-wheeled model (two wheels in front, one in back) with a planned fuel efficiency of 84 mpg (US) (2.8 L/100 km) on the highway and to retail for US$6,800. Standard features would include air conditioning, power windows, and stereo. It would seat two (one in front, one in back) with 3 airbags and a reinforced roll cage. Company executives predict that it will receive a 5-star safety rating. Although it will be fully enclosed like a standard automobile, its three-wheel design falls under US government classifications as a motorcycle. The design features three-wheel anti-lock disc brakes, an inline 3-cylinder, 60 horsepower (45 kW) engine, and front-wheel drive, with a top speed of over 100 mph (160 km/h), accelerating from 0 to 60 mph (0 to 97 km/h) in about 9.6 seconds.

And it’s more environmentally friendly than cow farts:

One cow produces 242 lbs of methane a year through burps and flatulence. Methane traps 20 times more heat than CO2 over a 100-year period. (SOURCE: Get Green Living) In a year, the average cow will emit 4,840 lbs of CO2 equivalent greenhouses gases. Elio Motors vehicle, driven 20,000 miles, will only emit only 4,500 lbs of CO2.

Hell of a selling point, am I right?

Elio will be building this contraption at the old GM Shreveport Assembly plant, former home of the Chevrolet Colorado and the Hummer H3.

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