Tuesday, January 25, 2011 06:08
As the worm turns, weird things come to us from the ridiculous halls of the automobile kingdom. Strange bedfellows are a regular part of business for these guys. To name a few:
Historic Swedish manufacturer sold to a Chinese brand named after a booger (Volvo and Geely). A brand arguably the favorite of freedom-loving Americans repo’d by the U.S. government and given to the unions (General Motors). The Japanese and Germans up to things (that can’t be good, or it might just be Mercedes/Nissan and Nissan/Renault). Now, large-scale Japanese auto manufacturing competitors (Toyota and Subaru, a part of Fuji Heavy Industries) are collaborating on what could be the most consequential sports car either company has produced since Subaru brought the WRX to America and Toyota… well, let’s say that Toyota hasn’t had too many sports car hits in a while.
Toyota needs an inexpensive rear-wheel drive sports car because the world has come back to its senses and remembered the value of the back tires doing the work. That, and Toyota’s Japanese competitors are doing quite nicely with things like the current Z and Genesis Coupe. Toyota, for being a “full-spectrum manufacturer” – their words – is woefully bereft of cars that cause people to be excited… Enter their ill-defined but conspicuous relationship with Subaru.
Of course, all of this follows a series of long-running rumors that Toyota was seriously interested in buying Fuji outright.
The “FT-86” (as far as Toyota is concerned) is a tidy package. This is Subaru’s flat-four boxer motor, easily packaged in 2.0 or 2.5-liter form, built into a platform reputed to have been largely designed by Toyota. Both manufacturers are slated to retail it. Folks are comparing the concept, just leaked and scheduled for introduction at Geneva in March, to the old AE86 “hatchi-roku” rear-drive Corolla. That begs the first question: If Subaru hasn’t sold a two-wheel-drive car since 1997, how do they plan to justify this “Rear Wheel Drive Sports Car Technology Concept”? More...
Monday, January 10, 2011 05:12
Americans are buying more large trucks again. Say it with me—workin’ folks need workin’ trucks. They’re not easy to park, they don’t get much mileage, and they prefer lumberyard lots to Macy’s mall madness—but they work.
Nobody built an Econosaurus, but there’s at least one Truckasaurus, and with good reason. More info is available on Fox Business, “Ford's November US Sales Climb 24%" And "Trucks Lead Month's Gains.”
I found these facts in a story that was less than new—about two months old—but because I was searching for evidence to support a theory of mine (that the measurement of specific groups of cars and how their purchase rates rise and fall can predict what segments of the American economy are doing better or worse), slightly older stories are okay. The info is still the info. Just the facts, ma’am.
The irony of this post is that, although article source is not fresh, the point still is. You might even be hearing this pro-truck news here first—probably because the fact that Americans are still buying lots of pickups—big, gas-guzzling workboxes—flies in the face of pop-think and the safe-bet media. The point is not stale, though, and its validity is of consequence because it indicates the roots of a growing trend (or what we hope will be a trend): Americans who get dirty for a living are getting back to it. More...
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...
Friday, December 10, 2010 03:48
To plan a weekend under your sled is to know how to avoid technical difficulties that turn that “weekend” in to the whole weekend. You don’t want to be grinding away at 10:PM Sunday night when the bossman expects you at a bored meeting Monday morning, bright and early…
So you want to install a lowered suspension on your hot/rice/sled/rat rod? It’s impossible to prescribe the process in a blog—this is rare real estate, folks. The specific details of an intricate job like that involve springs and shocks and bushings and et cetera, and you don’t have the time. I, on the other hand, have the time to tell you some things you should do to save some time.
Buy good parts. Cheap shocks and struts wear out fast. High-quality used bits are better than new crap. Really nice shocks are rebuildable when they wear out. Same goes for springs. Cheap metal fatigues in no time, but good metal is like a good rifle—it gets better with age. More...
Thursday, December 9, 2010 03:49
It’s not scanty portent of things to come when your state government puts the shared sentiment of independence-minded neighbors on their license plates.
Better yet what logo it is—as near ubiquitous a symbol as could be for freer men, something that every good American should know—the original flag flown by the U.S. Marines during the American revolution in 1775. It’s the Gadsden flag.
Whales and Greenpeace, there’s a new plate in town, coming to Virginia, Nevada and Texas—and those are just the states that have so far announced their plans to use the famous Gadsden “Don’t Tread on Me” segmented snake flag as a license plate option. More municipalities are considering it, according to people more state-employed than myself, but not doing so publicly. Wonder why?
Doubters are correct: If this were about profits, states could certainly charge an arm, a leg or one or more of the 13 sections of the Gadsden snake to drivers aflutter with the fervor of patriotism. Wouldn’t it be a breath of fresh air if states were to offer this plate for free at the time of registration? I’d check that box. You should ask your local government to offer the same option where you live.
While I wait to see the Gadsden flag on plates here in California (yeah, not holding my breath), I suppose I’ll make due with a sticker.