Wednesday, December 22, 2010 03:48
The auto sales market is getting better, but the auto sales market is getting worse. Profits are improving, but cars aren’t selling. Folks are making money, but folks aren’t spending it.
How’s that for gearhead whiplash? Let me explain.
The target audience of new-fangled B-class high-efficiency subcompacts—very Euro and Japanese items like the Honda Fit, Ford Fiesta, Nissan Versa or Hyundai Accent—is the same group of people who can’t afford a new car right now due to the depressed economy.
Essentially, the OEMs threw a party and no one can afford to come. Sounds like the corporate version of Mr. Murphy. A quality bit of journalism published on December 9, written by David Kelly—Youth Cars Are Everywhere, But Where Are The Buyers?—illustrates this bit of odd logic.
Signs of improved dealership activity indicate that sales are up, but which sales? Salespeople are selling pickups again, for example, which bodes well for market confidence amongst people who build things. That said, though, highly amorphous, socially dynamic but oft impractical (ironically) trend-sensitive post-college yuppies and techies have been hit hard during hard times, and their disposable income isn’t so transient anymore. I expect expensive new compact cars make less sense when your wallet is a little more compact as well. More...
Tuesday, December 14, 2010 03:41
When it comes to choosing the best V-8, I’m not sure it’s possible to single out just one. I’ve had a few V-8-powered cars, and I can think of at least two that belong on my list of all-time great eights.
The first was in a Sunbeam Tiger, a rowdy little street fighter with the face of a lamb and the heart of a lion. The Tiger was based on the British-made Sunbeam Alpine, which was originally powered by a variety of anemic four-bangers. Back in the 1960s, some honchos at the American importer got a hair up their collective noses and commissioned racing legend Carroll Shelby to stuff a 260ci Ford V-8 into the engine bay. The prototype got the blessing of the factory back in England, and production began.
I bought a well-used example and drove it straight to a speed shop where they plucked the engine out and injected it with steroids in the form of a cam, pistons, headers, and a Holley four-barrel with venturis big enough for a medium-sized dog to crawl through. The engine was the only part of the car that never broke. Everything British––namely most of the rest of the car––either worked badly, stopped working altogether, or fell off. More...