Mustang Parts
   Carrying Saleen wheels and Bullitt wheels.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Will GM Pay Us Back?

This is a big question these days, and many observers say "no".  According to Rasmussen, most Americans don't expect GM to be able to pay back the loans.  I think the taxpayer is basically screwed here.  Even if there is a successful IPO, there is no way that the new GM will be worth as much in stock as the Old GM at its peak. 

What could a valuation of the New GM be?  According to Dartmouth's Anant Sundaram, the government share could about $26 billion.  You can see his analysis here.

So if there is an IPO, and the government gets $26 billion for GM, the U.S. Government will get a return of about 0.60 on the dollar ($50.7B loaned, $8.8B remains as debt, so $42.7B put in as equity)

Mosler For Pres? Heh.

Warren Mosler, hedge fund manager and supercar builder, may be running for President.  One of Mosler's proposals is a national 30mph speed limit, to save fuel and reduce accidents.  Yes, that's 30mph.  Read it here.

Good luck with that.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Gettelfinger On Marchionne

This morning on Paul W. Smith's morning talk show (AM760), Ron Gettelfinger was a guest.  Paul W. tried to extract comments from Gettelfinger about Fiat's leaked plans to kill off some badly noncompetitive Chrysler and Dodge products, and the risk that this plan may hold for UAW employment.  Gettelfinger, as carefully spoken as ever, did not take the bait, and openly praised Sergio Marchionne instead.   Approximately:

"We have a close working relationship with Sergio Marchionne.  He has his arms around the car industry.  He understands what the buying public wants."

Gettelfinger then went on to say, as he often does, that he won't comment on "rumors and speculation".  "The newspapers, they want to sell their product.  And you know how they have been doing lately". 

Besides a resistance to attack Fiat based on an unpublished plan, Gettelfinger's response may indicate that there is less danger to UAW interests in Fiat's plan than the media is inferring.  For example, perhaps Fiat plans to build more Fiat/Alfa cars here using UAW labor, and that the plants will be re-tooled rather than shut down.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Paper: LEDs Not As Cool As You Think

According to a paper published in an IEEE journal, LED lamps can run hotter than equivalent fluorescent lamps.  Where florescents may dissipate 73-77% of their output as heat, the LEDs tested wasted 87-90% of their output!  Source here.

LED lighting has a long way to go. 

Car Buying Advice

A friend of mine is working on a purchase of a new vehicle.  She called me in terror the other day and said "they told me I should get paint protection, and rust proofing, and an extended warranty, and I wasn't sure so I said 'ok' let me think about it".  I told her to call the salesman back and cancel all of it.

  • You don't need rust proofing.  Cars today are designed to survive 150,000 miles or more, including salty road winters.  Just make sure to wash your undercarriage once in a while, you'll be fine.
  • You don't need paint sealant.  The car is clearcoated at the factory.  If you park it outside a lot, put on some Rain-X or Turtle wax, that will do the trick.
  • You don't need an extended warranty.  Today's cars are as reliable as ever. These are really just insurance policies, which means that mathematically, you will on average save money by self insuring.  That's because the cost of the policy is the average pay-out per customer + profit margin. 
  • You don't need a pre-paid service contract.  Your car won't need much more than oil and tire rotations for the first 30,000 miles, and after that, you should be taking it to your neighborhood service shop (I like my local Midas,myself, and Firestone has been good to me also).  Dealer service rates are substantially higher, on average, than independent shops.

The one item I told her to consider, if it would maker he sleep better, was the road hazard warranty,which is insurance against wheel damage.  At $350, it was cheap compared to the price of a new wheel/tire, and Michigan's pothole roads are wheel destroyers. I myself have trashed 2 wheels in the last 3 years. 

Tell the dealer to keep the locking wheel nuts, the scotch guard, and everything else that didn't come from the factory (unless you like overpaying).  Learn the phrase, "No thanks, I want just the car". 

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Video: OnStar Calls Hennessey

Tuner Hennessey Performance was testing a 700HP Cadillac CTS-V, and after pulling 0.99g, got a call from OnStar. "Vehicle Event Detected, Connecting To OnStar Emergency"

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Internet COTY Voting

The "Internet Car Of The Year" awards are open for the final voting, here.

My picks:

Car: Camaro SS.  The return of a muscle car icon, with sharp styling (though poor rear visibility) and vicious performance.  Yes, the Taurus SHO is good, but it is a $40,000 Taurus.  The Shelby is also a wicked muscle car, and faster than the SS, but also quite a bit more expensive.  Bang for the buck, Camaro is the winner.

Truck: Ford Raptor.  One. Bad. Ass. Truck.  The Chevrolet Equinox is a well executed product, but it doesn't inspire lust.  Same goes for the Audi.  If you drive on of these two down Woodward Ave, no one will notice.  Drive a Raptor, and little kids will point and jump up and down.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Will GDI kill HEV?

As things currently stand, gasoline hybrid electric vehicles ("HEV" as opposed ot plug-in hybrid vehicles, or "PHEV") cost approximately $3,000 more than an similarly equipped gasoline vehicle, although the actual hardware cost may actually be more. 

However, a gasoline direct injection (GDI) engine, with turbocharging, such as GM's Ecotec (Chevrolet Cobalt SS) or Ford's Ecoboost (Taurus SHO) costs only about $750 more than its naturally aspirated counterpart.

When you down-size from a power equivalent naturally aspirated engine, you gain about 20% in fuel economy by going to turbo direct injection.  The hybrid fuel economy improvement is typically around 40-50% EPA combined.

As GDI type engines become more common, consumers will have to choose between a system that offers half of the fuel economy benefit for one quarter the cost.  If gasoline continues to be affordable (say, sub-$4.00), and Congress doesn't enact large tax incentives for HEVs, I don't see large scale adoption of HEVs until their costs come down dramatically. 

I know that I, for one, would choose GDI over HEV in the current market.  GDI doesn't force you to sacrifice cargo space because of batteries, and doesn't make the car heavier.  It doesn't give you the strange feel of regenerative braking.  And it gives you lots of fun-to-drive torque very quickly.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

GM Marketing Backfire?

So after a few weeks of voting, GM's web site has the following results:

Fuel Efficiency: Toyota (Prius, not Land Cruiser)
Safety: Volvo
Quality: Toyota (sans zip ties)
Performance; BMW
The Best: BMW

So what was the point?  Everyone can see that GM's brands aren't the winners.  What did GM gain?

May The Best (Golf) Car Win


If you type in "May The Best Car Win", you might wind up here.  Not GM.

No Zip Ties For Buick

From Fritz Henderson's recent web chat:

[Comment From Ray Wert ]
Will Buick seek to add white, plastic floor mat zip-ties in a bid to look more like Lexus?
Fritz Henderson:  not going to get into this.


Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Viper's iPhone Remote Start System

Viper (maker of car alarms and remote starters) sent me a PR kit for a new system which will allow you to remote start your car with your Apple iphone.

It looks neat, because you can start your car even if it isn't within direct line-of-sight; the system communicates between the iphone and the car over the cellular network.

However, there are a couple of things I wonder about. First, the cost: after the first year, it costs $30/year for service. Is that worth it? Not to me, when I can have a service-fee free line-of-sight remote starter.

Secondly, I wonder about the safety implications of being able to remote start your car without being near it. All remote starters have a cut-off timer which kills the engine if you don't come and open the car within a certain amount of time, typically about 10 minutes. But without being able to see your car, you have no idea if there is some unsafe situation where you wouldn't want to be starting a car.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Cash For Clunkers Credit Not Taxable

I have gotten one of those chain emails purporting to show that the CARS program (cash-for-clunkers) actually costs you more money than you save if your car had some trade in value.  The email is based on a false premise, that the credit is taxable.  It is not.  According to the CARS.GOV web site (here),

The CARS Act expressly provides that the credit is not income for the consumer.

Also, for 2009, the sales taxes on a new car purchase are tax deductible.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Future Cop Cars

Now that GM has announced that they will bring their Australian RWD V8 sedan to the U.S. as a police car, there is a clearer picture of what the U.S. police car market is going to look like in the next few years.

2011 Chevrolet Caprice

RWD, 6.0L V8, 355HP, ~4000lb, 0-60 in 5.3s (G8 numbers)
Based on the same platform as the recently departed G8.

Photo courtesy of Edmunds

2011 Ford Taurus (rumored)

FWD/AWD GTDI 3.5L 365HP, 4300lb, 0-60 in 5.8s (SHO numbers)
Big and heavy, but quick thanks to twin turbo direct injection. Will the police accept front wheel biased AWD?

Photo courtesy of Edmunds

2012 Carbon Motors E7 (in development)

RWD 3.0L Diesel ">250HP", 4000lb, 0-60mph 6.5s (planned)
Still a concept car at this point, or vapor-ware for the skeptical, Carbon Motors is working on the design, and the manufacturing plant has not been tooled yet. The E7 will be built on an "aluminum spaceframe" with body panels. Expected to sell for around $60,000 a copy and last for 250,000 miles before being scrapped. This would be the only purpose-built police car in the U.S.

Photo courtesy of Edmunds

2010 Dodge Charger

RWD 5.7L V8 340HP, 4000lb, 0-60 in 6.2s
The old man of this group, the Charger platform will have been in production for 6 years by the time 2011-12 arrives.

Photo courtesy of Flickr

For comparison:

Crown Victoria CVPI

RWD 4.6L V8, 250 HP, 4000lb, 0-60 in 7.6s.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Survey: Customers Regret Buying Small Cars

The Pittsburg Post-Gazette (link) has an interesting article about sagging demand for small cars in the face of cheaper gas. AutoPacific did a study that asked buyers of small cars what they thought of their purchase, and unsurprisingly (to me), many indicated they'd rather go large next time.

"This is buyer's remorse," said George Peterson, president of AutoPacific, "What they said in the study is they want a bigger car. They bought a fuel efficient car, but now they're saying, 'It does what I want, but it doesn't have what I want. It doesn't have the features, the power, the room, and next time I'll opt for a bigger car.' "

In the AutoPacific study, based on more than 32,000 new car and light truck buyers in the United States, 30 percent said they wanted more power than they have in their current small car, 25 percent wanted more cargo room, 18 percent want more room in general, and 25 percent want more technology. In addition, 22 percent wanted a softer ride, and 18 percent wanted more safety.
In general, I think the auto companies expect that gas will be more expensive in the longer term, and with the 35.5mpg CAFE standards coming for 2016, will be pushing small cars more aggressively than ever.

What this research tells us is that in order to have satisfied small customers, carmakers need to offer cars that are comfortable, have good cargo space, good acceleration, and lots of gadgets. In other words, well equipped smaller cars. Which is exactly what the carmakers are working on.

Over the next few years, we will be seeing mainstream European style small cars in this country, such as the Chevrolet Cruze and Volt, Ford Fiesta and Focus, Fiat 500. These will be fun to drive, solidly built, and well equipped.

And, in a departure from what most consumers are used to, the new crop of small cars will not be cheap. We can expect to be seeing $20,000 price stickers for our "econoboxes" in the future.

Honda Crosstour?

I haven't digested all of its stats and photos yet, but from what I see so far, the Honda Crosstour looks like an answer to a question no one asked: "Can you make a cheaper copy of the BMW X6?". To me, the Crosstour looks like a big compromise. I also hope it looks better in person than in the photos, because the photos show me a whole lot of ugly.

Image courtesy of Edmunds

Edmunds has some photos and commentary here.

GM Sort Of Leaving RenCen?

According to a story in the Detroit News (here), GM is considering moving many employees out of downtown Detroit's only modern high-rise, the Renaissance Center, to fill in the empty offices in Warren, where many of the designers and engineers sit.  GM tried to sell the RenCen and then rent it back recently, but couldn't find a buyer.  And Warren's mayor recently campaigned to have GM move its headquarters entirely back to Warren. 

It's bad for Detroit, which is already teetering on insolvency, but GM has to look out for GM.  If Warren is better for cash flow, then Warren should win.

Monday, October 05, 2009

How A V6 Beats A V8

Q: How does a V6 out-run a V8 with more displacement?

A: On a high altitude hill climb where the V6 has twin-turbos compressing the intake air, while the V8's run at effectively 60% of their displacement.

Still, it is sort of neat to see a V6 from Ford spank a Maserati at something.  Link: