Mustang Parts
   Carrying Saleen wheels and Bullitt wheels.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

The JD Power 3YIS Survey

The results of JD Power's 3 years-in-service quality survey have been posted. There is some good news here for Detroit: Ford, GM, and Chrysler all have divisions that place above industry average. Ford has Ford brand, Mercury, Lincoln; GM has Chevrolet, Buick, Cadillac; Chrysler has Chrysler brand.

Interestingly, the most reliable Ford car at 3YIS is the Lincoln LS/Ford Thunderbird. (The LS and T-Bird appear to be dying off, quietly)

However, there is some definite bad news here, too, on the other side of the industry average line. Ford has Mazda, Volvo, Jaguar, and second to dead last, Land Rover. GM has Saturn, the defunct Oldsmobile, GMC, Pontiac, Subaru, Saab, Daewoo, and Isuzu at worse than average. Chrysler has Dodge, Mercedes, Jeep. Mercedes is actually worse than Chrysler brand and Dodge. In fact, Mercedes is closest to Saab, with 273 and 278 defects/1000 vehicles, respectively.

Why are Ford's premium brands worse than industry average? The Premier Auto Group needs some kind of whoopin'. It is no wonder that Lexus and BMW is eating their lunch. And Mazda--Mazda is supposed to bring Japanese quality to Ford, not the other way around.

GM's domestic premium brands are doing well, but the bread and butter--Saturn and Pontiac, GMC--are not. This will continue to hurt residual values, so GM has to turn these guys around. Like Ford, GM's foreign premium brands are struggling.

Some highlights of the competition:

Hyundai is slightly worse than average, however, its cousin KIA is dead last, with 397 problems/1000 vehicles.

VW/Audi are in the bottom 20%. It is no wonder they are struggling.

surprisingly, MINI is near the bottom as well, not expected from BMW.

Nissan is mediocre.

Subaru Tribeca: Ugly?

I am on the fence. I can't make up my mind if the Subaru Tribeca is ugly, or merely uninteresting. When I look at pictures on the web, I think 'UGLY!". I saw one in person the other day, and it was merely bland.

It looks a little like a BMW X5 and some kind of Alpha Romeo had a child.


Detroit News


Detroit News

What do you think?

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

The "Hat Tip" [Blogging]

It has become customary among bloggers to give credit to other bloggers if they were the source of a news item or blog idea, using the "hat tip", or HT. This is good form, because it acknowledges the work of others, and also forms a web between like minded bloggers.

Sometimes, so many bloggers are looking at the same information, there is no reason to HT or link to another blogger. The articles just happened to be posted in parallel.

I would like to see more people use the Hat Tip technique, if they don't have trackback cookies (Blogger.com doesn't).

Monday, June 27, 2005

The Horror: No Cable TV!

From a recent Detroit News story about the coming benefits war between GM and the UAW:
Doris Wamsley, a 78-year-old widow in Flint, fears she'll one day have to
choose between cable television and prescription drugs.

I'm sorry but this example does not incite much pity from me. I myself don't have cable TV--I prefer to spend my money elsewhere.

There no choice between medecine and TV, and it was a really stupid example.

Another quote:
"There were smart people who saved their money -- and I was not one of them," said Sanderson, smoking a Marlboro in the living room of his tidy one-story home in the Cleveland suburb of North Ridgeville, Ohio. "It just goes back to being
stupid enough to believe we were going to get all the stuff we were promised."

Right! Now we are getting somewhere--how can anyone assume that things are never going to change? Just because GM promises lifetime benefits which are among the most generous in the corporate world doesn't meen you can count on them.

Any more than you can count on Social Security for your retirement. That's why I have a 401(k).

Don't get me wrong. I don't want to see widescale impoverishment of our aged retirees. However, the retired population is the most affluent segment, as a whole. And the economic destruction that will occur if GM goes under will be much more painful than adjustments to benefits now.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Keep Kicking, LIttle One [Culture]

Susan Torres was a 26 year old pregnant wife and mother, who collapsed on May 7th, 2005. At the hospital, it was discovered that she had advanced brain cancer. She was brain dead, and has no hope of recovery.

Her body is being kept alive so to save the life of her unborn child, who is at 21 weeks of gestation. The family hopes to deliver the child when it reaches 30 weeks.

More details are here: http://www.susantorresfund.org/


Susan Torres

The web site is raising money to pay the mounting medical bills. It costs about $1,500/day to keep Susan on life support, which is not covered by insurance. They take PayPal.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

The 500MPG Trick

A "fact" has been swishing around the 'net for a while now. Certain greenies are promoting the idea of a 500MPG car, based a combination of 3 trendy new technologies: hybrid-electric engines, plug-in hybrid, and ethanol, all rolled into one dreamy Al Gore burrito, with some Ralph Nader sprinkled on top. From the L.A. Times:

Add in "flexible fuel" options that already allow many cars to run on a combination of petroleum and fuels like ethanol (derived from corn) and methanol (from natural gas or coal), and you could build vehicles that could get --— drum roll, please --— 500 miles per gallon of gasoline. That's not science fiction; that's achievable right now.

Set America Free estimates that if we convert entirely to flexible-fuel, plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, U.S. gasoline imports in 20 years will drop by two-thirds.
... This would not only reduce the Middle East's strategic importance but also help reduce emissions to Kyoto-mandated levels.
There is a detail here, though, that many are missing: the G in MPG stands for gallon, not gasoline. You may get 500 miles per gallon of gasoline, however, you will not come close to that in miles per gallon of fuel.

When you consider the whole fuel, you see that it is not as green as promised. For one thing, ethanol requires a great deal of energy to produce. Much of that energy comes from (drumroll...) gasoline and diesel fuel. Fuel for the tractors. Fuel for refining and pumping. Energy to make the fertilizer.

If ethanol was cheaper than dinosaur juice, we would be using more of it. But Congress has to pay farmers to produce it, and require its use by law--because ethanol is more expensive to produce than gasoline. If the market was allowed to work, ethanol would go extinct.

Methanol is derived from coal and natural gas. Where are the large deposits of natural gas? Russia, and the Arab states of the middle-east. How does using more natural gas reduce reliance on foreign energy sources? Do the greenies really want to encourage more coal mining?

Ethanol is less energy-rich than gasoline. You need to burn more of the stuff to get the same power output. Ethanol has a heating value of 11,500 BTU/lb, compared to gasoline's 18,000 BTU/lb (source: Alternative Fuels Data Center). Also, the stoichiometric mass ratio of Ethanol is 9:1 air/fuel, compared to 14.7:1 for gasoline. That means that for a given engine displacement, you need 1.6x as much ethanol as gasoline, by weight. Given an engine, and a driving cycle, you will get worse MPG running ethanol.

The other detail here is the "plug-in" part. Again, most of our electricity is generated from fossil fuels--natural gas or oil. Unless the greenies are going to agree to build lots of nuclear power plants (which I would heartily support), they are not going to reduce carbon emissions or imported energy use by much. California already has a problem generating enough power for its current needs--can you imagine what would happen if Californians had to plug their cars in to recharge every night? I have previously criticized the economics of plug-in hybrids (here).

Given a set of requirements, such as passenger capacity, crash performance, and 0-60 acceleration, a plug-in flex fuel hybrid will be dramatically more expensive than a comparable gasoline car, even at high production volumes. You have to pay for a whole parallel powertrain, including electric motors, batteries, charging transformer, etc. And the extra components will break, increasing overall maintenance costs over the vehicle lifetime.

As usual, the greenies are throwing up a (marijuana) smoke-screen by moving the emissions around. Don't be fooled. The goal of the greenies is to make personal transportation very expensive. If they wanted to reduce carbon emissions, they would be clamoring for nuclear power. If they wanted to reduce oil importation, they would approve more exploration in non-Arab states, and places like ANWR. What the greenies really want is for us to ride government controlled mass-transportation systems.

(Peter DeLorenzo at AutoExtremist does a nice job on this topic)

Tragedy in NJ

On Friday, the bodies of three little boys were found in the trunk of a Toyota Camry. They had been missing from their Camden, New Jersey neighborhood since Wendesday. The car was parked next door to the yard where the boys were last seen. The boys crawled into the trunk, for some reason, the lid closed, and they could not get out. The police say they died of suffocation.


Yahoo Photos

Newer cars have the glow-in-the dark pull-handles which can be used to release the trunk from inside. I was never sure if they were worth the cost, but now I like them. A few kids a year will be saved by the simple device, as well as a few victims of forcible imprisonment.

The police say that they searched the car, but it seems they did not check the trunk A simple, possibly fatal mistake.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Rooting For the Little Guy

Uzi Nissan is the owner of Nissan Computer, and the original owner of the web sites www.nissan.com and www.nissan.net, which he registered in 1994. Nissan the car company sued Uzi in 1996 for cybersquatting, requesting $10,000,000 damages.

However, as Uzi's web site points out,
This is after more than 20 years of Mr. Nissan's well-documented use of his family name for business purposes in the US,and which he commenced when the cars were known as DATSUN.

Nissan Motor won injunction against Uzi, and he was forced to close his web sites, converting them to non-commercial use. Then Uzi appealed, and Nissan Motor's injunction against Uzi for using the web address was reversed. Nissan Motor is appealing to the supreme court.

Nissan Motor Co. should know better than to try to screw an Israeli named Uzi.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Fire In Detroit

Breaking news (as of ~11:00pm) a massive fire has broken out in a warehouse that is in the same area in Detroit as the original Ford Model-T assembly plant. Most of the old plant is now used for storage, and the entire property has been allowed to decay. Other than a historical marker sign, you wouldn't know that this was a site of great significance for Detroit.

I hope the historically valuable buildings survive, although they will be swallowed by decay later if not by fire now, if they continue to be neglected.

Update: The fire has gutted a brick building with arched windows, which according to the reporter on the scene, is 100 years old. The building's walls are collapsing...


Detroit Free Press

Update: Judging by the video on TV, and comparing with some photos on the web, I think the building that has been burning and has now collapsed was the Studebaker plant on Piquette Avenue and John R. Not the Model T plant, but still a shame.


The Piquette Street Studebaker Plant

Update: The entire block has been destroyed, however, the Detroit Fire Department managed to prevent the fire spreading to the adjacent buildings, including the Model T plant.

OCR For Your Car

Bosch has developed a digital camera based system which reads traffic signs as you pass them. The system could be used to inform the driver when he was driving too slowly, for example, or to speed up in the areas of deer crossings.

The theory here is that the faster you are driving, the less likely you are to hit a deer, since in the deer's frame of reference, as your speed approaches the speed of light, you become shorter. If you don't believe me, you only need to go here and read up.

Seriously, though, this is a very cool gadget, which combined with a lane detection system (same hardware, probably, but more complicated algorithm) gets us one step closer to robot drivers. In the shorter term, it will be one more piece of high tech hardware, which will justify the price tag on the future round of luxury cars.

(HT: AutoBlog)

Sunday, June 19, 2005

She Had a Sawn-Off [Politics]

A gun-control activist, Sheila Eccleston, was recently arrested when she admitted to police that she was keeping a sawed-off shotgun in her house. She claimed that she was keeping it until the next gun amnesty. This makes no sense to me, because she could have just called the police and turned it in right away. Instead, she kept it for six months.

In case you didn't know, sawed-off shotguns are specifically banned by federal law (the National Firearms Act of 1934, or NFA). In order to legally own a shotgun with a barrel shorter than 18", or an overall length of 26", you need to buy a $200 tax stamp. Before being approved for the tax, you have to pass an ATF background check, and you have to get permission from your county law enforcement.

(HT: AngryEngineer)

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

The Lienerts: Apple Vs. Orange

I am starting to think that Anita and Paul Lienert, the married pair of automotive writers who do reviews for the Detroit News, are nuts. Previously, Anita Lienert compared the cupholders in the Porsche Boxter to the stirrups at her gynecologist office. This week, they preview the Lincoln LT luxo-truck, and are offended that it does not share a feature with the Honda Ridgeline.

We also couldn't help but to compare the Mark LT to the vaunted 2006 Honda Ridgeline pickup, which is the first truck to come equipped with a trunk. Despite the LT's strong points -- and there were many -- it lacked a good place to hide and lock up valuables.

Why would they compare a Lincoln F-150 derivative to a Honda unit-body based on the Pilot SUV? Even a rudimentary understanding of how body-on-frame trucks are put together makes it obvious that there is no place to package an under-the-floor trunk. If someone wants to lock up valuables, any number of options exist in the aftermarket, from locking toolboxes to hard tonneau covers.

These vehicles have entirely different "DNA". One is a prettied up truck, originally designed to haul, tow, and survive abuse from contractors. The other is a truckified light-duty SUV. One is a luxury car, and has a sticker of $50,000, the other is family transportation. One comes with a truck tuned V8, the other with a V6 shared with a minivan.

What next? Will they compare a Saab car to a Saab fighter jet, and complain that the car lacks a HUD, lacks radar, and is under-powered?

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Not All Of Us Are Guys

Just when you were settled in the assumption that all auto bloggers are male, I have just found out by reading Joe Sherlock's blog that AutoMuse is in fact a woman. Which she cleverly hides by always referring to herself as "E. L. Eversman".

On the other hand, the Muses were goddesses, the daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne, so "AutoMuse" is a hint.

Anyway, she's worth reading, especially if you are interested in the legal aspects of the automotive repair industry.

I have also heard a rumor that Robert Farago is not a man, but a robot which collects negative news about GM at random, ads curse words, and publishes once a week.

Friday, June 10, 2005

Lutz Throws Gauntlet

In today's blog post, Bob Lutz dares us to compare:

Today, we'’re operating on a much more emotional, creative level and our designers have been empowered to express themselves. Our winning products will not be determined by careful analysis; they will captivate and enthrall through imaginative design and flawless execution.

We'’ll be introducing a lot of new products that reflect another new philosophy of General Motors, which is not to introduce vehicles that are merely competitive, but to really target being the best. This has, frankly, also required some recalibration of the internal culture, especially in the United States. And it'’s taken some time to lift ourselves to the best international standard in sheet metal fits. Take a look at the upcoming Chevrolet HHR. I ask you to compare that $15,995 Chevy HHR-—- in terms of sheet metal fits, hem flanges, the way all of the panels fit to each other -—- to a Lexus GS 400, and tell me if there is any significant difference.

I am sure that the comparisons will be brutally honest. I hope GM can stack up.

The most important point in the post, to me, is that GM has (apparently) decided to abandon the "design by committee" and "brand management" philosophy of product development, and will now pursue exciting stuff built well. Funny, that's what Ford and DCX are trying to do...

Camaro?

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Escaping Cuba [Politics]

Cubans are so desperate to get out of Castro's socialist "paradise", they risk their lives in boats cobbled together from old taxis. I guess they aren't impressed with their state-run jobs, free "healthcare", and high rate of literacy. I guess they don't want to "be like Che" (dead).


From Yahoo! Photos

The pre-eminent (IMHO) blog on the subject of Cuba is www.babalublog.com. Check it out.

Free Ford Video Game

Ford is offering a free video game for download. The game has players driving Focuses, and if they do well, they can move up to Mustangs and GT's. It doesn't look bad, although apparently the only billboards allowed in Ford's virtual city are of Ford cars.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

The Redemption of the Pushrod?

Various pundits occasionally slap GM for selling pushrod engines. I have even been known to do it myself. But I have come to understand and respect GM's use of OHV designs, and the critics should stop and think about it for a few minutes.

Staying with OHVs makes good business sense for GM because the designs and tooling are mature. The enthusiast community, and the automotive press both tend to be hard on the low-end pushrod engines, describing them as "buzzy" and "low tech". However, does the average consumer care? Does your father-in-law the pediatrician know if he has an OHV or DOHC engine in his car? Does your mother-in-law know? If someone is buying a car as an appliance, they may not even care if they are buying an I4 or a V6 (see: Toyota Camry). Many people just want a reliable car at a good price, and won't care about a pushrod design. Some of them might even enjoy the throaty roar.

GM's pushrods are not all primitive, and are getting more advanced, picking up many of the high-tech features. Cylinder de-activation is relatively simple and cheap with the OHV architecture--bleed oil pressure from valve lifters using a solenoid valve. Cylinder deactivation on a OHC design requires some complicated mechanics and electronics, such as BMW's throttle-less Valvetronic engine. The added complexity adds cost and reduces reliability. (Anyone seen a valve de-activation system from Ford yet?)


BMW's Valvetronic valvetrain, courtesy of bmwworld.com

In a recent issue of Automotive Engineering, SAE's monthly glossy, there were some diagrams of a new GM engine design. It has a single cam OHV system which adds a 3rd valve per cylinder by using a horizontal pushrod, which connects to a pivot . You can download a brochure from GM here.


Courtesy of GM.com


A few years ago GM showed the XV8 concept--a twin cam OHV engine. This design supports 3 valves per cylinder and variable cam phasing. The second cam rides over the lower cam, and is driven by a slave chain.


GM's XV8 engine, courtesy of Carcraft.com

GM squeezes some pretty good torque and fuel economy numbers from their engines. Nothing wrong with that. Here is a chart I threw together that shows the distribution of specific power (HP/L) for GM's OHV engines, vs. a sampling of Ford's OHV engines. GM actualy does a little better, in terms of HP/L, with its OHV designs. The data came from Ward's excellent 2005 Light Vehicle Engines chart.


(click for full size version)


GM also puts electronic throttle control on its pushrods--not exactly primtive.

Other advantages: pushrod engines can be made light, like OHCs, using aluminum and magnesium. Pushrod engines don't need long timing belts or chains. They are not as tall as OHC designs, allowing for a lower center of mass, or a more wedge shaped vehicle profile.

The 300C with HEMI is a pushrod, and it is the media darling. And I don't hear many people howling about the Corvette having a pushrod engine.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Fairlane Coming; Windstar/Freestar Dead

According to Edmunds, Ford will build a tall wagon crossover which will be similar to the Fairlane concept, for the 2008MY. It will be based on the same platform that the 500/Freestyle/Montego share. It will have swing-out rear doors, rather than the mini-van like sliding doors (think of the new Fairlane screaming, "I'm not a minivan! I'm a crossover!"). If the Fairlane is based on the 500 platform, I would expect it to ship with the Duratec 35 3.5L V6.

The stale Windstar/Freestar/Monterey minivans will finally be allowed to go extinct around that same time. Besides being stupidly named ("Freestar" vs "Freestyle"), the Ford minivans were not sufficiently good to break out, and can't gain traction against the segment leaders: Honda, Toyota, and Chrysler. Since Ford wasn't able to play ball, they finally decided to go home.

John Kerry: C Average Student [Politics]

During the 2004 presidential campaign, John Kerry was protrayed as the intellectual candidate, by his supporters, and George W. Bush was portrayed as a dunce who breezed through college on C's.

The Boston Globe reports that, in fact, John Kerry got about the same grades as Bush did in college--he graduated with a 4 year average or 77, which on a 100 point scale comes out to be a C.

In 1999, The New Yorker published a transcript indicating that Bush had received a cumulative score of 77 for his first three years at Yale and a roughly similar average under a non-numerical rating system during his senior year.

Kerry, who graduated two years before Bush, got a cumulative 76 for his four years, according to a transcript that Kerry sent to the Navy when he was applying for officer training school. He received four D's in his freshman year out of 10 courses, but improved his average in later years.

AFA Stands Down For Now

The American Family Association has suspended its call for a boycott of Ford, after a Texas dealer offered to mediate discussions between Ford and the AFA, according to the Detroit News. The AFA's anti-Ford web site, www.boycottford.com is currently down--if you want to see it, go to Google.

It is too nice of Ford to give these people time, but they can no more afford to annoy Christian consumers than they can to annoy homosexual consumers.

Monday, June 06, 2005

Veyron on Ebay

I don't think my Paypal account will cover this Bugatti Veyron that is being auctioned on Ebay Motors.

Even if I did have the wampum, I'd be careful, the seller has only a 91.7% positive seller rating. Aparrently, one of his only 30 customers wasn't happy: "cd player didn't come with harness, don't [sic] describe item clearly".

(HT: Autoblog)

Apples and Cars

Today Apple announced that it will be switching from Freescale (Formerly Motorola) PowerPC processors to Intel CPUs for the future generation of Mac computers.

I am not sure this is a good idea, for Apple, as this could cause them to lose their distinctiveness, and lose some barriers between the Mac and Windows worlds. OTOH, it may lower the cost of Mac hardware, and it may open the door to some interesting cross-breeding, such as Apple MacOS for Intel based PCs, or (shudder) the option to run Windows on elegant Mac hardware.

So what does this have to do with cars? The PowerPC processor family, a joint venture between IBM and Motorola, is widely used in the automotive world. Smaller versions are used for things like entertainment, brake controllers, climate control, and instrument panels. Many engine controllers (ECUs, aka PCMs) are running with the MPC5xx processors.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Heh. [Politics]

Hilarious post from FrankJ, titled "Gotta Gitmo Respect", detailing the "TOP TEN DIFFERENCES BETWEEN GITMO AND A GULAG". An excerpt:
10. Beatings at Gitmo are done as felt necessary, instead of following strict Soviet beating schedule.
...
4. Many people were placed in gulag's simply for their political views, while many were put in Gitmo because they wouldn't stop shooting at us, gosh darnit.
...
2. While neither the inmates of the gulag or the Gitmo detainees bathe, the Gitmo detainees do have the option.
The whole thing is here.

"Driving By Women Leads to Evil"

In Saudi Arabia, a public outcry has arisen because a legislator proposed allowing women to drive.

"Driving by women leads to evil," Munir al-Shahrani wrote in a letter to the editor of the Al-Watan daily. "Can you imagine what it will be like if her car broke down? She would have to seek help from men."

Right! First you let women drive, next thing you know, they're strippers and prostitutes! So what do you do, to keep women away from strange men?
The driving prohibition has forced families to hire live-in drivers, who, strangely, are allowed to be alone with women. Al-Zulfa said clerics have deemed this a lesser evil than driving. Women whose families cannot afford to pay $300 to $400 a month for drivers rely on male relatives to take them around.
Yep, that'll work real good. I'm sure Saudi women never have affairs with their drivers.

Saudi Arabia is in the clutches of the extremely strict form of Islam, Wahhabism. Women are allowed to drive in all other Islamic states. In many, women are allowed to work. In a few, they are even allowed to vote.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Christians Boycott Ford

The Christian group American Family Association has organized a boycott of Ford Motor Co., based on Ford's support for homosexual groups and targeted marketing to gay consumers. One of the more bizarre claims on the web site:

Ford held the first automotive conference aimed at bringing diversity to the car industry. "Diversity" is a code word for homosexuality. By defining themselves as a minority such as African-Americans, homosexual activists seek to bolster their claims of needing special treatment.


Now, I am a conservative, and I am a supporter of what you might call "traditional family values", but this argument is a stretch. Ford, like all other major companies, have jumped on the "diversity" bandwagon as a way to reach two constituencies: minority employees, and minority consumers. Diversity outreach is a more benign form of affirmative action, the less benign form of course being hiring quotas. Ford is doing what every other major company is doing--trying to attract minority employees, so that it can not be attacked by the Left or by the EEOC, for being a racist corporation.

I am not a fan of corporate support for gay marriage, gay pride parades, etc. However, boycotting Ford will have no significant impact on the company, or any other company for that matter. Did Disney roll over when the AFA declared a boycott? (not really)

On the other hand, hurting Ford will hurt many things that the AFA supports. Ford gives quite a lot of money to traditional philanthropic causes, such as historical preservation, the Red Cross, United Way, etc. The amount of money that Ford gives to non-controversial causes is probably an order of magnitude more than what it spends on gay issues.

Consumers are the other side of the issue. Ford, like all other companies, must market its products to a very diverse market. A way to do this is to target advertising to specific communities, whether they be Chinese, Spanish speaking, or gay. If this is done effectively, Ford can gain an edge on competitors who do not make the effort. It is just good business. Ford advertising to homosexuals is not necessarily an advocacy of their life style. Targeted advertisements would not, if done properly, be seen by the AFA's members.

Update: Ford supports Christian employees internally through the Ford Interfaith Network, an employee run but company sponsored group that organizes religious events and Bible study. Ford allows the various religious denominations to use Ford property to hold meetings, publicize events, etc.