Mustang Parts
   Carrying Saleen wheels and Bullitt wheels.

Monday, March 30, 2009

The Warranty Insurance Signal

The Obama administration's decision to offer government backing for GM and Chrysler warranties is a clear signal of the direction they expect the companies to go in. If Obama thought that GM and Chrysler had viable business plan, with a good chance to restructure their obligations further, there would be no need for the warranty backstop.

What this signals is that Obama thinks there is a good chance that at least one of the companies will in fact wind up in bankrupcy. In which case, government backing of warranties is key to keeping public confidence high enough to keep the businesses running.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Does America Want The Tata Nano?

My answer: no, not in its original form.

As it is, the thing (probably) won't pass the NHTSA crash tests, not to mention the basic FMVSS standards. Once you add the airbags, mass, 5mph bumpers, and so on, the puny 33HP engine won't do at all. NHTSA will require stability control, so ABS will be required.

Americans also won't buy vehicles without radios. They'll want an automatic transmission.
Tata will have to go for a much larger motor, which will reduce the fuel efficiency and raise the price.

By the time the missing features are added, the car will cost $5000. You can buy a nice used Chevrolet Cobalt, Saturn Ion, Ford Focus, etc. for that kind of money. And you'll get a proven product, with wide dealer support.

Video: Early Nano Review

This is another video review of the Tata Nano, apparently done in India for CNBC.

An interesting detail: 0-60 kph takes about 10s, which translates to 37mph. 100kph (62mph) takes 35s!

The reviewer likes the rear spoiler and fake brake vents... I'm wondering why Tata bothered, they should have invested the money in more interior amenities.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Aptera: Quirky Toy or Real Car?

Here is a short list of reasons why I think that the Aptera will be a low volume toy for the rich or idealistic, and not a mass market transportation appliance.

  • It's a tricycle--less stable handling than a car of similar wheelbase. A blown tire at speed could be very tricky to handle, especially if it is the pusher wheel that blows. (Update: a reader states that the Aptera is now FWD, however the previous design was definitely a pusher not a puller. The sketch shown in the new brochure clearly shows a rear-mounted powertrain.)
  • Very little clearance between wheel fairings and pavement. How will it handle potholes? Dirt roads?
  • No spare tire. You get a inflation kit instead.
  • No front or rear bumpers, minor scrapes may do severe damage.
  • Sectioned windows may not let a Biggie soda and fries into the cabin
  • You can have any color as long as it is white.
  • May not meet tough side and front impact standards, probably won't interface well with conventional cars. High rear end may result in rear impacts flipping the Aptera forward.
  • In a crash, deceleration will be vicious becuase the Aptera is so light. Multiple airbags will have to cushion the occupants, similar to how Smart does it.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Silly Mazda, No iPod Controls

By now, just about everyone in the U.S. has an Apple iPod, or one of the many competitors. Most automakers have rightly realized that allowing people to use their iPods in the car with a well integrated interface would be a big selling point. The best system I have tried is Ford's Sync, which will talk to an iPod (and most other mp3 players, as well as flash drives). I have also heard good things about Chrysler's MyGIG system. GM is offering it's PAL system on many of its vehicles, and it will eventually become ubiquitous.

I was looking into the new Mazda6 recently, and I was amazed that Mazda does not offer any digital iPod integration on this car. You can get a dealer installed add-on kit (for a hefty price), but all you get out of the box is the analog aux input. This is a real turn-off for me, in fact it is nearly a deal-killer.

Mazda just released a major update to the Mazda6, the should have put iPod integration at the top of the new feature list. Sure, bluetooth audio streaming is nice, but most people don't use it yet, and Apple doesn't support it yet.

Carnival Of Cars: Ides Of March Edition

Mark Tapscott, after doing yoemans work on Carnival Of Cars (which, you may remember, was started here) has been fairly silent lately. So, with a tip of the hat to Mark, I'm going to pick up CoC sporadically for a while.

Sooooo... let's set the choke and jump on the kickstart lever...

GM's Fastlane Blog discusses the concept of "well to wheels" emissions, or Life Cycle Analysis. According to Norm Brinkman, Argonne National Labs found that "E85 using ethanol made from corn reduced CO2 by about 20 percent compared with gasoline while ethanol made from cellulosic energy crops reduced CO2 by about 75 percent."

Surprising conclusion: the Acura TL is ugly.

At TTAC, Ken Elias writes on how to save the U.S. auto industry: "Lead, follow or get out of the way. The feds should force GM to follow Ford’s example. Chrysler should get out of the way. And then, with American talent and determination, our auto industry can once again be the envy of the world."

Edmund's Daily asks, "Who's cleaner with their car--guys or gals?"". Answer may surprise.

Edmund's posts a tasty bit of retro-TV video, a montage of The Fall Guy truck jumps. Oh, and there's some girl in a bikini, too.

Steve Parker bring us an LA Times story which tells how Obama has ended the controversial (especially if you are a Teamster) policy of allowing Mexican trucks to operate inside of 25 miles of the U.S. from Mexico.

Mark Tapscott wonders if Obamanomics means the end of personal mobility, and AutoProphet responds with a hearty "not dead yet!". Hey, I can link to myself if I want to, it's my CoC!

Over at the AUTOEXTREMIST, Peter De Lorenzo lays down several pages of napalm. Don't read the rant unless you are ready to buy a new monitor. An excerpt: "I’m tired of the auto industry being treated like an old broken down piece of meat or something that should be taken out back and shot. Our so-called “leaders” in Washington - particularly certain senators and representatives who should know better - have relegated an entire industry to the dust heap. And why? So a few idiot southern senators can tout their states as the “new” center of the auto industry? Or is it because Detroit and the center of industrial America don’t quite fit into the new “Green” world that Northern Californian politicians want to shove down our collective throats?" Preach it, brother!

Trollhattan Saab has shut down, but is being reborn over at Saabs United. There, rumors are reported that a Sheikh Maktoum may be interested in investing in Saab. Rock the casbah!

At IfItsGotAnEngine, a tale of smashing a piano, followed by learning how to repair pianos, all due to sloppy Tacoma loading.

Joe Sherlock drops lots if interesting right-of-center political commentary, not much new on cars lately.

Autoblog reports that researchers have invented self healing auto paint. Impregnated with chitosan, the paint will re-connect with itself to smooth out the scratch. A note to our Jewish readers, chitosan comes from crustacean shells, so licking your car would not be kosher. Especially if it is a VW.

Jalopnik claims that unemployed UAW guys will be retrained to make fashionable hats. I'd be fact-checking this one.

Never Buy a Salvage Car That Has Been "Clipped"

You need a car, and you don't have much money. You find a guy on Craigslist selling a salvage-titled vehicle which has been "expertly repaired, new front clip".

You don't want it.

A "clip", as the repair guys call it, is when a car is cut through the unibody, and a major portion (like, half of the front end) is welded on. On the outside, it looks fine, but underneath the exterior panels, what you have is non-contiguous steel welded together. It may be done well, but it may not be. Chances are, it isn't as strong as the original design, and in a serious crash, it may offer much less protection than a normal car would.

Automuse has some good posts on this subject.

A better bet: buy a car that needs a new engine, and then find a local mechanic to drop in a donor motor from a junk yard. I've seen decent chassis for sale for $500-$1000, that when combined with a junkyard motor, would be a servicable car.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Fuel-less Jeep?

I saw a Google text ad for Jeep on this blog today, which says:
Jeep hybrid vehicle
Learn More About the New Jeep Fuel-less Vehicles Today.
If you follow the link, you'll see a page about Chrysler's ENVI program, which includes a plug-in hybrid Jeep--which has a gasoline "range extender".

It's not a "fuel-less" Jeep.

It is also important to note that only one ENVI vehicle has been confirmed for production, and the rest are, as far as we know, just demonstration prototypes or concepts.

I don't understand why Chrysler is spending money advertising vaporware.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

European Child Seat Testing Video

A fellow from Poland (I think) sent me a link to his YouTube page, which features various videos relating to child seat safety. This one is fascinating, it is a collection of European car seat tests. Note how the tests are done on a sled, using an actual car body (not just a moving platform like the NHTSA test). Midway, one of the seats fails, sending the little dummy spinning heels over head.