Archive for Driver’s Seat

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.

Comments (2)




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.

Comments (2)




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.)

Comments




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.

Comments (1)




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.)

Comments (2)




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.

Comments (4)




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.

Comments (1)




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.

Comments (4)




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.

Comments (4)




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.

Comments




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?

Comments (1)




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.

Comments off




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.

Comments off




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.

Comments (2)




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.

Comments off




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.

Comments off




5WTF30

Tam’s wheels (eight of them, anyway) are in the shop, and while she’s tooling around Naptown in a perfectly reasonable, if unexciting, rented econobox, she’s telling this tale:

Last oil change rolled around and I pulled up to the Jiffy Lube (yes, I know how to change it myself, but it’s worth it to me to not have to lie down on gravel) and the whole staff of strapping young men had to stand around while they went to find the only person in the store who could operate a manual transmission, a leathery middle-aged country gal. You would be drummed out of the Subtle Fiction Writer’s Guild for including that scene in a book.

Now I’m wondering. Infiniti has had, since 2003 anyway, exactly one model with a stick shift; I’d be surprised if the local dealership sold more than a single truckload in any given year. What are the chances that any of their service personnel can drive a manual? (I’m betting that the one female on staff can, and probably none of the others.)

Comments (4)




The ride-height report

You say you can’t stand sport-utility vehicles? Amateur. Here’s a guy who can’t stand sport-utility vehicles:

You’ll search long and hard to find someone else as firmly committed to the removal of the SUV from the American road as your humble author believes himself to be. Although I drove four different Land Rovers during the company’s BMW and Ford periods (a ’97 five-speed Disco, a ’99 Rangie 4.0S that I talked my father into buying, an ’00 Freelander, and an ’03 Discovery 4.6) I had what I felt to be a valid excuse: a BMX and mountain bike hobby that found me on dirt roads and fire trails nearly every weekend. As soon as my knees fired me from those sports, I fired the Rovers and got a Phaeton like decent people do.

The bulk of SUVs foisted on the American public have been irredeemable pieces of garbage, misshapen and deeply offensive embarrassments, gravid with the moist spawn of limitless profit yet crawling with the maggots of brand destruction, long-term customer disappointment, and, occasionally, violent death at the hands of a collapsing roof.

Not that a roof has hands, but you get the idea.

I figured that the shark was jumped, or at least driven over, once General Motors deemed that Saab should have SUVs, and brought forth three unsuccessful models, built from the Chevrolet, Cadillac and Subaru parts bins.

Comments (5)




Captain, we are not being hailed

Everything you wanted to understand about Oklahoma weather was contained in a 30-second radio commercial yesterday, when Fiat of Edmond (which isn’t precisely in Edmond, but no matter) announced a Pre-Dent Sale.

Wait, what?

“The hail’s coming, everyone knows it, let’s just get the promotion cranked up and go with it.”

I’m sort of hoping this works the same way my snow pusher did: rendered itself unnecessary for two years just by my going out and acquiring it.

Comments (2)




One o’ them newfangled head units

A decade and a half after Gwendolyn’s birth in Oppama, Japan, Infiniti is still sourcing auto audio from Bose, though things are obviously much different today. With a few days to fiddle about with a G37, I decided to do some exploration.

The first thing I spotted was a succession of weird variations in volume. Since the lowest volume seemed to occur at idle, I concluded that this was an effort to compensate for road and engine noise: crank up the RPMs, and the box cranks up the volume. If this actually worked well, I never would have noticed it. To do this correctly, there’d have to be a sensor located near the listener’s head to feed back sound-pressure level on a realtime basis, and I don’t think Nissan wants to spend that kind of money. Digging down in the audio menu, I found a toggle for the function, and switched it off.

Pushing the AUX button brings up satellite radio, which will tune but will not actually deliver a station unless there’s a proper subscription in effect. Curiously, there’s no formal three-connector AUX jack, just the USB port in the console, at an angle where it’s difficult for either driver or front-seat passenger to access while seated, unless you’re riding with Reed Richards. I attached my little Sansa Clip Zip, and smiled as the song titles rolled up on the screen. Downside: I have yet to figure out how I can get the Sansa’s 32GB microSD card to read; the menu only brings up the stuff from the resident memory. And while the device powered on and off when the car was shut off, which was greatly appreciated, the last restart was met with “Check Device Connections.” I’m thinking that Rockbox, puzzled by the start/stop command sequence, basically locked itself up. After a very long shutdown sequence, it started again normally. I’m thinking that if I had to deal with this on a regular basis — and eventually, I suppose I will — it would be easier just to plug in a 32GB flash drive.

Comments (1)




Needs an eye-bleach dispenser

Nissan, perhaps due to rubbing up against corporate cousin Renault for all these years, always seems to have a weird mix of genuinely handsome and downright fugly vehicles. I drive a 14-year-old Infiniti sedan which I think is at least acceptable-looking (apart from a really dumb aftermarket spoiler), especially considering the atrocities that have been vended in this size class in recent years in the name of fuel economy/aerodynamics/designer perversity. On the other side of the divide is the Juke utelet, of which Car and Driver said: “There are no logical reasons for it to look the way it does, so clearly drawn without conventional aesthetic considerations in mind.” And they liked it.

The revised Infiniti QX80, née QX56, née Nissan Patrol, may get similarly blistered in the press. At TTAC, Cameron Miquelon made no particular observation about its appearance, other than to note that the hood was “massive.” However, Michael Zak at Autoblog brought out the pejoratives:

[I]t’s hard to call this SUV anything but ugly. It’s bulbous and almost brutish, which aren’t generally words you want to have to use when talking about any kind of luxury vehicle.

Or even Lincolns.

On the basis that you should be able to make this fine judgment call on your own, here’s the new QX80, as seen at the New York auto show:

2015 Infiniti QX80

No amount of ethanol could persuade me that this thing is desirable. (Your mileage, of course, may vary.) Then again, the driver only has to look at the inside of it, except when refueling — which, given the size of this thing, he’ll be doing rather frequently.

Comments (8)




Had I a clue

I mentioned yesterday that the dealership had lent me a G37 for the duration while my own ride awaits a new and sorta-pricey part ($200+, plus God knows what to install); inasmuch as I have no idea of the duration of “the duration,” I figured that it would be at least two days and therefore I ought to spring for a couple of gallons of gas. Shortly after figuring this, I stumbled upon the Question of the Day: “On which side is the fuel filler?”

Conventional wisdom says that you follow the little arrow inside the gauge. I looked at it, and it looked like the one in my car: pointing to the right. Except that the filler on my car is on the left. Being distrustful of Nissan fuel gauges anyway, I decided I’d wait for the next G37 to come along and take notes. As it happens, the little C-store/Shell station around the corner from me had a G37 at the pump, and it was filling from the right side, so I manuevered into the nearest appropriate position and felt around for the remote fuel-door release on the underside of the driver’s side armrest.

I found nothing there.

Okay, fine, said I, and walked around to the other side of the car, where the glovebox is, with the express intent of consulting the manual.

Which wasn’t there.

My second Mazda had the release on the floor by the seat controls. Not there, either. After about seven minutes of looking just as stupid as possible, I noticed an asymmetry to the door opening. I pushed the side nearest the narrower edge, and yes! There’s the cap. And a tether to keep it from migrating, and a rack to keep it in rather than letting it dangle by the tether.

The clerk, when I presented her a ten-spot, was most amused. I was perhaps a tad less so when I discovered that the difference between regular and premium, recently jacked up to 32 cents at most Shells I see and 46 cents at one I’d passed earlier, was 60 cents. So “a couple of gallons” says it straight: ten bucks bought me just under two and a third gallons at $4.299. I hope they’re grateful at the dealership.

Addendum: The part will apparently arrive today.

Further addendum: Make that a part. Someone at Nissan Double Secret HQ dropped the ball.

Comments (2)




Out there in the audio radiance

KCSC, the classical-music station at the University of Central Oklahoma, changed its call letters to KUCO a couple of weeks ago; I’m frankly surprised they’d stuck with the old calls for so long, inasmuch as the school hasn’t actually been Central State College since the early 1970s. However, the RDS display still reads “KCSC@UCO.”

This should tell you that Gwendolyn had a spa day today — the dreaded MIL, attention to which has never, ever cost me less than $600 — and that they turned me loose in a ’13 G37, a competent handler with a fairly dumb seven-speed automatic and, yes, an RDS display. And I had plenty of time to enjoy the radio, since traffic on the Lake Hefner Parkway was moving at around 15-20 mph. Southbound. This, of course, is impossible, since the Hef’s main purpose in life is to provide an alternative to the Broadway Distention, three miles east, which funnels people out of downtown and into Edmond at that time of day; hardly anyone ever goes south on the Hef during the evening rush.

Near Britton Road — I’d come on at 122nd — I saw the issue. A flat slab of yellow plastic, maybe the size of the similarly colored rack where my dishes dry by evaporation, had been dropped on the line between the center and right lanes. Every swinging Ricardito for two miles had slowed down to get a good look at it. This, I decided, was the first really good argument for self-driving cars, which can’t engage in rubbernecking unless it’s part of their program. (What’s the over/under on them programming them to do exactly that?)

Spa day continues until Nissan can find an EGR valve.

Comments off




Have you promoted a Ford lately?

Received from one of Ford’s social-media mavens:

We think 50 years of service warrants 50,000 best wishes, don’t you?

For half a century, Mustang has gifted drivers with a gracious mix of style, power and performance.

Now, as we greet the all-new 2015 Mustang, it’s time to say thanks.

Join us in celebrating this milestone by giving Mustang the biggest virtual party in history. That’s right — we’re aiming to crush the Guinness World Record for Most eCard Signatures by April 16.

In other news, there’s a Guinness World Record for Most eCard Signatures.

Still, half a century is several lifetimes for lesser vehicles, so:

Wish Mustang the best:

http://action.ford.com/mustang50signthecard

Yeah, I did. It’s a pony car, after all. I think I had #29,846. Besides, it enabled me to empty out the inbox without pressing the dreaded Delete key.

Comments (2)




See my wheels

Bark owns a Screaming Yellow Zonker Boss 302 Mustang — he describes it, more calmly, as “School Bus Yellow” — and he cares what you think about it:

“Who would buy a car based on what other people think?” is a refrain that is repeated again and again and again. Is it wise to buy a car based solely on the opinion of others, to opt for a model other than the one that you would personally prefer due to what amounts to grown-up peer pressure? Of course not. To do that would be to deny one’s own self worth.

But to pretend that we just don’t care? Come on. Be real. To act like we don’t care what the world thinks of our car is equivalent to walking out the door every day without making an attempt to match our shoes and our belts. Sure, kids and people who have no ambition do it, but grown-ups don’t. The vast majority of people in the business world dress in a way that signifies their position in life. I choose to wear Hart Schaffner Marx suits and sportscoats and Allen Edmonds shoes almost exclusively in the workplace. Why? Because it shows people around me that I am a (moderately) successful man with a sense of style. Why would I risk that professional image by walking out to the parking lot and getting into a 1996 Camry?

I’m not sure this works in reverse, though: I see plenty of Junior Samples lookalikes in Escalades.

For myself, I don’t think I really did give that much of a damn, until I paid however many extra bucks for a premium-brand badge — and then all of a sudden I had to determine if I was living up to the standard being set by my car. Truth be told, I found that wearying, especially for a guy who wears pocket Ts and khakis to work. Moreover, I’m not sure anyone cares all that much; I don’t have much of a reputation to uphold, and I presume no one has any serious expectations of me at this point. I don’t, however, feel compelled to bark at Bark: he’s made his calculations, and he’s acting in accordance with them, which, outside of politics anyway, is a laudable approach. Besides, it’s his dream car, and you don’t scream on someone’s dream car, especially if he knows how to drive it.

Comments (3)




An inline something-or-other

Toyota is showing off a couple of new engines, designed to be downright miserly with precious fuelstuffs. Here’s some of the release:

One of the engines is a 1.3-liter gasoline engine in which Toyota is employing the Atkinson cycle — normally used in dedicated hybrid engines. Use of the Atkinson cycle provides an increased expansion ratio and reduces waste heat through a high compression ratio (13.5), resulting in superior thermal efficiency. Toyota aims to further improve the fuel efficiency of the engine by utilizing other innovations including an intake port with a new shape that generates a strong tumble flow (whereby the air-fuel mixture flows in a vertical swirl) inside the cylinder, and a cooled exhaust gas recirculation (EGR) system paired with Variable Valve Timing-intelligent Electric (VVT-iE) technology to improve combustion and reduce loss.

Pretty neat, if it works, and I tend not to bet against Toyota. The other engine is even smaller:

[A] 1.0-liter engine jointly developed with Daihatsu Motor Co., Ltd. has achieved maximum thermal efficiency of 37 percent due to a similar tumble flow-generating intake port, a cooled EGR system, and a high compression ratio. Combination with the idling-stop function and various other fuel consumption reduction technologies allows vehicles to achieve a maximum fuel efficiency improvement of approximately 30 percent over current vehicles.

The 1.3, they say, will reach 38 percent. Most of us out here in the old Teeming Milieu are getting 20 percent, maybe.

Still, there’s one thing I want to know that Toyota for some reason didn’t put in their press release: How many cylinders? Eventually, Cameron Miquelon at TTAC ferreted out the numbers: the bigger engine has four cylinders, the smaller one three. Not entirely unpredictable, perhaps, but you’d think Toyota would be telling us this up front.

Comments off




Meanwhile in Corvetteland

UAW Local 2164, which represents workers at GM’s Bowling Green Assembly facility, home of the Chevrolet Corvette, has voted nearly unanimously to authorize a strike:

93 percent of the workers who submitted ballots voted in favor of authorizing a strike. Still, the decision needs to be booted up to the regional and then national levels before any action can actually be taken. Eldon Renaud, the president of Local 2164, seems to think that the strike authorization will serve as a sort of saber rattling, getting the “immediate attention” of the facilities management.

“We’re like everybody else, we’re strike-shy,” Renauld told the media, according to the Associated Press. “Nobody wants to have a strike. Who really benefits by it?”

The union’s complaints:

Renaud said issues involved were safety and quality control.

He said there have been several “near misses” that could have resulted in serious injuries for assembly line workers at the Bowling Green plant. The union also worries that the elimination of quality control positions will affect the integrity of the plant’s quality procedures, he said.

Presumably the “near misses” do not include the sudden appearance of a sinkhole in the plant in mid-February, from which the last car was retrieved this week.

Comments (4)




Arachnid pinion (again)

You may remember this from three years ago:

A couple years’ worth of Mazda6 production — about 65,000 cars in all, four-cylinder models only — will be recalled because of, um, spiders.

The 6 has since been completely redesigned, but eight-legged critters still like the old one:

Another recall has been issued for 42,000 more of the models built between 2010 and 2012 and equipped with the 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine.

According to the automaker, there have been nine confirmed sightings of spiders in vent lines since the original recall. It seems that covers were applied at the factory to keep the arachnids from entering, but it hasn’t quite exterminated the problem.

This time, they plan to reflash the car’s computer, to change the purge timing in the charcoal canister that collects fuel vapors.

Comments (4)




Lies per hour

I am becoming persuaded that Barack Obama, once he leaves office in 2017, should head up a car company, just so he can get a good look at the godawful malfeasance of his erstwhile acolytes:

The battery-powered Tesla Model S is one of the world’s fastest and quietest luxury cars, but you might not know the latter if you watched the 60 Minutes interview with Tesla founder Elon Musk that first aired on Sunday.

Now CBS says it regrets the “error” that led to that impression.

Error, schmerror. This was either a deliberate hit or the most blatant act of stupidity in auto coverage since — well, since 60 Minutes decided to take out Audi. Get a whiff of this:

Following an introductory segment by Scott Pelley, whose wife owns a Model S, there is a series of shots provided by Tesla of a Model S driving down a road accompanied by the out-of-sync sounds of an internal combustion engine and the shifting of a transmission.

The Model S has neither of these things.

Nice fakery, CBS. Not quite up to the level of what you did to Audi, though:

Ed Bradley’s 17 minute “investigative report” aired on November 23, 1986. Between interviews of the teary-eyed “victims” (drivers) of unintended acceleration swearing their feet were on the brake pedal, CBS showed a clip of a driverless Audi lurching forward on its own.

Viewers didn’t get to see the canister of compressed air on the passenger-side floor with a hose running to a hole drilled in the transmission. An “expert” had rigged the Rube Goldberg device to shift the big Audi into drive and, like any automatic-equipped car, move forward (unless the brakes are depressed).

Edward R. Murrow is doing about 1800 rpm, even as we speak.

(Via Bayou Renaissance Man.)

Comments (3)




Six times around the world

Gwendolyn, my (mostly) trusty Japanese traveling companion, rolled over the 150,000-mile mark yesterday in the 1500 block of the Northwest Distressway (this would be approximately in front of the Courtyard by Marriott). And she’s in pretty good shape, though there’s a gasoline-vapor issue that needs attention — changing out the gas cap was insufficient remedy — and the tinworm is overly attracted to her flanks.

Of course, this car was already six years old when I bought it, so not all those miles are attributable to me. Still, 150k is more than I’ve ever seen on an odometer. (I’ve had three other cars go past 100k, and one of them almost made it to 200k, but there were only five digits in those days.)

Comments (2)