Mustang Parts
   Carrying Saleen wheels and Bullitt wheels.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Kudos to 2014 Impala

I took a look at a new Impala this morning, and I have to give GM props for the nice job they did on the body assembly.  All of the panel gaps were small, the trim alignment was good, the doors shut tightly.  The car looked expensive, even though it is a Chevrolet and not an Audi.

This car is a huge improvement over the car it replaces, the ancient w-body based 2006-2013 Impala.  That car was so out of date, it was difficult for me to understand why anyone but fleets purchased it.  And even the fleets had better choices.

The styling of the 2014 is clean, with a little sculpture and a little chrome, but a tasteful amount. 

Inline image 1
(Photo courtesy of

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Tesla Market Craziness

Tesla's stock drive through $100/share this morning, giving the company a market value of around $11 billion.  That is more than Fiat/Chrysler ($8b) and almost as much as Porsche ($12b)!

That's nuts.  This is speculation, I think. 

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Sad News Down Under

Ford has announced that they will cease manufacturing operations in Australia in 2016.  Product engineering will continue.  However, this may be the end for the indigenous Falcon vehicles, which include RWD V8 sedans and Utes (cars with open pickup beds). 

GM has followed a different strategy, using Australia as an export base for the Holden based Pontiac G8 (defunct) and later the Caprice PPV, based on the same platform.

Tesla Pays Back ATVM Loans... But Why?

The big announcement yesterday in the auto business was that Tesla was paying off its ATVM loan off early.

I am puzzled by this, it seems from the outside like a bad business decision.

The ATVM loan was cheap money, carrying an interest rate equal to Treasury notes.  Current 10 year notes are below 2%.

By paying off the ATVM loan early, Tesla traded the cheap government money for stock and a public bond offering of their own notes, also running at about 2% interest. 

But Tesla could have done both--kept the ATVM loan and issued their own bonds--and had extra cash with which to develop the Model X and future less expensive vehicles. 

Was this as simple as Elon Musk not wanting to be under some government oversight, and not wanting to be seen as a government supported enterprise?  

Monday, May 20, 2013

Will BEVs put auto service shops out of business?

Inside EVs asks, "Will Electric Vehicles Drive Mechanics Out Of Business?", after an article in The Street.

The answer is yes, mass electrification will eventually put some mechanics out of business.

The low-skill places like quick-lube joints will be really hurt.  Independent ASE certified shops, and ASE certified chains like Midas will see a slow down, as brake changes will be much less often and exhaust systems will never need work.  However, BEVs will still require cooling system repairs, air conditioning work, and suspension fixes.

Tire shops that specialize in tires and suspensions will do fine.

I expect that some independents and many large chains will invest in specialized tools and training, to be able to do BEV specific jobs like battery pack diagnosis/replacements, battery cooling system repairs. 

I also expect that in time, a healthy market will develop in after-market high voltage batteries, where you will be able to buy a rebuilt battery pack for a competitive price from a 3rd party supplier, much like you can buy replacement 12v batteries today.

It may be very different, actually, than you expect, because we don't know which alternative fuel technology will win out.  If consumers balk at the high cost of BEVs, and we don't have the elusive super-battery breakthrough, then we may see a long term shift to other energy storage forms.  For example, we may have a large number of engines running on CNG in the future, as fracking accelerates and the prices continue to drop. 

Since CNG engines are still combustion based, that path would have a busy future for today's mechanics.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Telsa's Profit

Tesla's profit this first quarter, $11 million, was due in part to income from selling EV credits in California to other automakers.  Tesla made $85 million not from selling product, but from cashing in on environmental regulations

This means that when you look at profit and loss from selling cars, Tesla is still losing money, at a rate of about $74 million last quarter.  And this is after slowing down R&D work, delaying the Model X, likely to save cash.

Thursday, May 09, 2013

Another ATVM Borrower Fails

VPG, which designed (and actually built) a purpose-built vehicle for handicapped transportation, has shut down.

The company ran out of money before it could become self-sustaining, after burning through about $400 million in private capital and a $50 million AVTM loan.

VPG's MV1 mobility vehicle was basically a homely body on top of a Ford truck frame, and uses many parts from existing vehicles.  It was well designed for transporting wheelchair bound passengers, with not much consideration for style.  Besides being ugly, the MV1 is heavy and thirsty, with EPA mileage of 11/14 for the gasoline version.

Inline image 1

If you want to buy one, there are still a few for sale, priced around $40,000.  Since they use a common Ford 4.6L V8 powertrain, service should not be an issue.

VPG at least made it to production, unlike Carbon Motors, the other famous failure in the purpose-built service vehicle sector.

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Elio, stalled?

It sounds like Elio Motors is having a hard time raising capital to fund development.  According to KTBS, Elio has not raised enough money from private investors yet to build the next level of prototype, and is asking for seed money from the Louisiana parish where their plant would be located.

Caddo Parish should be very cautious.  While jobs are great to have, it takes many millions of dollars to bring as complex a product to market as an automobile. 

Chances are unfortunately high that Elio could wind up as another Fisker or VPG (who built cars and the flamed out) or Aptera (who never managed to actually deliver a finished vehicle.)

In the meantime, Elio is taking non-refundable reservations for the vehicle, and selling t-shirts.

I wish Elio luck, this would be a neat vehicle to see on the road, and it might be fun vehicle to drive if done right.  But in the current climate, after numerous failures, raising money for a new car company is probably very, very hard.

Terrafugia's "Flying Cars"

Terrafugia, a company made up of MIT grads, has developed a "flying car", which is really an airplane that can be driven on roads to get from the garage to the airport. 

It can only legally exist as an airplane and as a car due to a pile of regulatory exceptions, everything from weight (to still be classed as a LIght Sport Aircraft by FAA) to airbag and ESC exceptions by DOT.

So it is basically a small 2 seat airplane with steerable, non retracing landing gear and folding wings.

Don't get me wrong, this is an amazing engineering feat.  But this thing is like a flying Aptera--a neat design study, but not a commercial proposition.

To "drive" one of these, you have to have a pilots license.

To drive one on public roads, you also have to be very carefree. Even a small fender bender could prove to have very dangerous side effects.   And insurance--I can't even imagine what insurance would cost.

The dream of flying cars--soaring above the gridlock--has been with us for many decades.  However, the practical reality is so complex, I just don't see them being affordable or practical for the average person even in the distant future.

I think the very wealthy would be better served buying personal helicopters, and the rest of us, we'll just telecommute.

Wednesday, May 01, 2013


Not surprisingly, CODA is bankrupt.

With it, one of the first street legal Chinese produced cars (the CODA glider came from Hafei, a re-badged Saibao III sedan) you could buy in the U.S. dies out, after paltry sales of about 100.

The other street legal Chinese car you can buy right now (sort of) is the Wheego LiFe.