Mustang Parts
   Carrying Saleen wheels and Bullitt wheels.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Fiesta ST Mini Review

I had the chance to do a short test-drive of a Fiesta ST.  I had a chance to drive it on the freeway and flog it on some surface roads and in a large parking lot.

The Fiesta ST is very good at some things: accelerating, braking, turning.  It is a razor sharp little missile.  However, there are some significant trade-offs and omissions in the ergonomics and controls department.

  • Awesome powertrain.   Powerful, sounds great.  Lots of torque.  This car really moves.
  • Lots of lateral grip, sharp reflexes.
  • Smooth shifter action.  
  • Excellent brakes, good feel and stopping power.
  • Comfortable and grippy sport seats.  Nice steering wheel.  
  • Well weighted steering which firms up nicely at speed.  Car felt solid at high speeds, and was easy to steer in parking lots.
  • Good fuel economy--I saw 41 on freeway and 29 flogging it on surface roads
  • Sharp looking little car, the Fusion family front end looks properly mean and sporty.
  • Jittery ride at highway speeds--seems to heave a lot.  Not fun to drive at 70mph on less than smooth highways.  Significant road noise at higher speeds. 
  • You feel every bump, crack, and ripple in the pavement.  Michigan's cracked up roads are torture.  
  • MyFord Touch does not control climate system, instead the lower right panel shows you the date. 
  • Annoying up-shift indicator.  In a top-of-the line sports model, I would assume the guy will figure out how to shift.
  • Hard plastic center armrest, ouch.  For the top-end model, Ford should have spent the extra few dollars and installed a padded center arm rest.  
  • Rear visibility, rearview mirror looks down for taller drivers.
Conclusion:  The Fiesta ST is an efficient and fun little road carver--if you have good roads.  I would not buy this car for a daily commuter in SE MI, the roads are just too rough for the suspension tune. In a place with good, smooth roads, it would be much more pleasant.  This is a car for someone who values high performance at a modest price, and isn't as concerned with creature comforts.

I was't able to get high quality images of the bright red car I drove, but here are some images I stole from Ford's web site:

Friday, August 01, 2014

The Elio Question

Paul Elio is on a mission to produce a very lightweight (1250lb target) three wheel car, sort of a low-cost Aptera type thing, based on "off the shelf" tech and suppliers.

I have been watching his effort develop, and it is impressive how far Elio has come, considering how difficult it is to bring something to market.  

There is a nagging question hanging over the Elio: capital.   In order to actually produce the trike, Elio Motors must raise a huge pile of money.  They need money for development, testing, tooling, certification, etc.  They need to hire and train many more employees.  They need to build many prototypes to hammer out durability, crashworthiness, quality.

The problem is, after many obvious auto startup failures such as Fisker, Saab 2.0, Aptera, and even struggles of established players such as Smart, Suzuki, or Mitsubishi, investors are cautious about the automotive sector.  

Investors are asking themselves, even if Elio can deliver, will people buy this weird three wheel vehicle, which is legally a motorcycle in the eyes of the DOT and most states?  Will the safety claims play out?  Will it have enough refinement and comfort for a mass market?

Elio Motors can't fund their launch selling t-shirts and $1000 reservations.  Elio needs hundreds of millions of dollars.  Where will they get it?

Tesla Powertrain Failure Rates

I read with interest recently that a substantial number of Tesla S owners are getting their drive units (electric motor + gearbox) replaced by Tesla due to premature failure.  The early symptom of the failure is an audible gear noise which Tesla techs call "milling".  Edmunds and Motor Trend both had their cars fail in this way.

According to a Tesla Motors Club poll, here, 77 members have had their drive units replaced once, and an astounding 15 have had them replaced more than once.  

How bad is this?

It is hard to estimate because we don't know how many cars form the total sample for the poll.  Tesla Motors Club indicates 17,995 registered members, while total Model S sales in the U.S. are around 28,000 units (39,163 globally).

So let's play with the numbers a little.

Assume all members of the forum own Tesla Model S:
92 failures / 17,994 Tesla Motor Club members = 5.1 failures/1000

Assume all failures were reported in poll (seems unlikely):
92 / 28,000 U.S. sales = 3.3 failures/1000

Assume forum represents 5% of all Tesla owners (I saw this mentioned on
92 failures * 20 / 39,163 = 47 failures /1000

In the auto business, a major component failure rate north of 5/1000 units is considered a major quality issue, and anything approaching 47 is a complete disaster.

If, for example, the 2013 Toyota Camry had a similar rate of transmission failures, somewhere between 5-47/1000, that would translate into repairs of between 2040 and 19,000 transmissions!  At the top end of that scale, likely a recall.

In other words, the "milling" issue is a major quality issue for Tesla. I am sure they have their engineers and suppliers pounding away at it, coming up with design fixes  to reduce the occurrence of this.

American Muscle Mustang Giveaway

My main blog sponsor, American Muscle, is giving away a tricked out 2014 Mustang GT, equipped with a Vortech supercharger, air suspension, and 20" staggered wheels.  

To enter, visit this page.  Enter by August 4, 2014.


Dear Reader,

"Real Life" has been keeping my time very occupied, and I have been neglecting my blog.  I hope to remedy this by gradually easing back into it.