Mustang Parts
   Carrying Saleen wheels and Bullitt wheels.

Friday, November 26, 2010

How To Move Your Garmin Favorites

Garmin GPSs store your favorites in a file called Current.gpx, in the folder X:\GPX\.

So say you got a new GPS, and want to copy over your collection of favorite locations.

Connect your old GPS via USB to your computer. It should show up as a new drive.

Copy the file Current.gpx to your computer, and rename it to somenthing else, e.g. TEMP.gpx.

Then plug in your new Garmin, and copy the TEMP.gpx file to the \GPX\ folder.

Restart the Garmin. It should merge your favorites into its Current.gpx file.

GM Ad: "We All Fall Down"

This is a touching ad, no doubt about it.

However, GM isn't an individual. It is a huge company with hundreds of executives at the top, steering the boat.

GM isn't a boxer that took a hard punch by a powerful opponent.

GM whittled itself down, year after year, making bad decision after bad decision. And GM didn't entirely pick itself up... it required a major reorganization, financial destruction, and outside management.

That is the key thing. GM must remember, as an organization, how they went from largest automaker in the world to bankrupt. They need to have the "lessons learned" burned into the very DNA of their leadership culture.

I'm glad GM is back on track, for numerous reasons. A failure of GM would have been catastrophic not just to the domestic auto industry, but to the entire economy.

They had better stay on top of the game now, because I don't think the American public will have the will to save them again.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

GM Logo Flip-Flop

For a while, GM insisted on linking all of its brands together by putting a little silver GM square logo on each vehicle, be it a Daewoo Chevrolet or a Cadillac.  Now, the old GM-in-a-blue-square logo is hard to find--it is off of the RenCen, and missing from most of GM's web pages.

One place it appears to live on is at the GM fleet web site, here:

I suppose if you go bankrupt, and then are reborn as a new, lean company, you may want to tinker with your logo.  And if you are GM, you want to emphasize each brand individually, instead of reminding people that their Cadillac has something in common with a Daewoo.   But the Blue Square dates back to 1964 according to one source I found, and logos should not be thrown around lightly.   Remember how Ford was mocked for changing its top line logo from the blue oval to the company name in script?

New GM Website

GM has updated its web site with a neat intro video showing off GM's engineering prowess.  It's a great video, with a nice tech-rock soundtrack, check it out.

.GOV Soaking Up Hybrid Capacity

According to Bloomberg, Obama's administration has purchased 25% of domestic hybrid production.  In fact, it appears that Obama was the biggest customer for the Malibu mild hybrid, which was a market flop.

The government purchased about 64 percent of GM's Chevy Malibu hybrid models and 29 percent of all Ford Fusion hybrids manufactured since Obama took office in 2009, the data show. GM stopped making the Malibu hybrid in 2009 after lack of consumer demand.

Hybrid demand is weak because of relatively reasonable gas prices, so the U.S. government is helping to keep hybrid capacity utilized by buying for the federal fleet.  This will help the taxpayer in the long run, by using less fuel, but the cost up front is significant.

Interestingly, Bloomberg reports that the average purchase price was about $5,300 under MSRP.  GIven that hybrids tend to be a loss leader or break-even product to begin with, this program probably didn't help Ford and GM make much money.

For the hybrid business to prosper and evolve, two things need to happen, and soon: batteries need to be cheaper, and gas prices need to be higher.  The consumer has proven that he is primarily cost driven.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Fiat's Nero

I heard on John McElroy's automotive news show, Autoline Detroit, that Fiat will use Italian names for its colors in its marketing and ordering materials.  For example, red will be called rosso and black will be nero.  (Que Rome burning jokes)

What I don't understand then is why Fiat is calling the 500 "Five Hundred" and not "Cinquecento", which is its proper Italian name.  Some Americans many associate a recent large sedan by Ford with "Five Hundred".  Maybe the problem is teaching us dumb Americans how to say Cinquecento, although it isn't that hard once you hear it.  It sounds like "chink-wuh-chento" (not "sink-wuh-sento").  Fiat could hire some Italian babe with full lips to show us how it is done.

If you are going to go Italian, I say, go all in.  Call it Cinquecento.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Ford Explorer Smashing "Priceless Ming Vases"

Part of Ford's online social marketing campaign for the new Explorer is a series of short and amusing YouTube videos which answer a question about some feature of the vehicle.  

I thought this one was funny.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

iPod Touch Bug: Alarm

Well so much for the illusion of Apple's "it just works". I found a bug in iOS 4.1 in, of all things, the built in Alarm app.

After the end of daylight savings time, my alarm that was set for 6:00 AM now triggers at 7:00 AM, even though the click is set to 6:00 and the alarm is set to 6:00!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Happy Veterans Day

Did you know there is only one surviving American veteran of WWI?  Read Frank Buckle's fascinating story here.

Thank you to our military veterans.  You fought, and many of you were wounded, many of you lost friends, because the country asked you for service.  Our freedoms and comforts rest on your shoulders.

GE: Eating Up EV Tax Credits

Is there a downside to the public to GE's announcement that it will buy 25,000 EVs, including 12,000 Chevrolet Volts?  

The tax credit for EVs phases out after a manufacturer sells 200,000 of them.  From Public Law 111-5, Sections 1141-1144

    `(2) PHASEOUT PERIOD- For purposes of this subsection, the phaseout period is the period beginning with the second calendar quarter following the calendar quarter which includes the first date on which the number of new qualified plug-in electric drive motor vehicles manufactured by the manufacturer of the vehicle referred to in paragraph (1) sold for use in the United States after December 31, 2009, is at least 200,000.
By gobbling up EVs, GE certainly helps to jump-start the industry, but they also gobble up future tax credits that consumers would have gotten, unless GE opts to forego the EV tax credit.  Which would be bad business.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

E15: Big OIl Fights Back

The American Petroleum Institute has filed a lawsuit to block the EPA's waiver allowing E15 in late model (post 2007) vehicles, on the grounds that the potential harmful effects from E15 have not been fully studied.

I agree with the API, at the heart of it.  If E15 is sold alongside E10, some customers may try to use it in older vehicles, and they could have problems.  

However, on the practical side, I don't see E15 going anywhere in this piecemeal permitting approach.  For E15 to have any impact, it will have to be mandated, not just permitted.  And I doubt it will be mandated until it has been proven safe for older vehicles.  Considering that the average age of cars on the road in the U.S. is around 10 years or so, to safely cover most used cars EPA needs to test back well before 2001 model year.  I don't have the data (R.L. Polk, where are you?) but I suspect you would have to go back to like 1995 to cover 95% of the vehicles on the road.

On the commercial side, gas station owners are not about to spend $20,000 per pump to upgrade to E15 certified pumps.  According to this NY Times piece, unless there is a mandate, gas stations are not going to be switching over.

The third option for service station owners is simply not to sell E15, which Mr. Eichberger said seemed likely. "It is an authorization without a mandate," he said. "There is no retailer out there who has to sell this product."

E15 will remain mostly a symbolic gesture for the near future.  And if your favorite station does put up signs warning you that they are selling E15, make sure you don't put it in your older car, boat, 4 wheeler, or lawnmower.

Monday, November 08, 2010

Mulally Crushes Jobs

Steve Jobs, that is.  Amazing times we live in.  Alan Mulally, CEO of Ford, has crushed Apple's Steve Jobs in the Fortune magazine Business Person Of The Year internet poll, 96% to 4%.  Link here.

Friday, November 05, 2010

Mahindra Update -- Still On Track?

I just got this email from Global Vehicles regarding Mahindra. It doesn't mention the litigation at all, and seems to blame domestic Indian market demand for the delay to U.S. introduction. Huh?

Good Morning Mahindra Truck Fans,

Congratulations. You are part of over 30,000 signed up to be the first to experience the hardworking Mahindra trucks.

I know you are wondering when you will have the opportunity to get behind the wheel of one of these amazing, authentic, robust, fuel-efficient trucks at a Mahindra dealer near you. While I cannot give you a firm answer on timing, I can tell you in my estimation, trucks will arrive in the spring of 2011.

Mahindra has applied for and received their EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) certificate, which means the vehicles have passed emission requirements. They also filed with (NHTSA) National Highway Safety Administration, which handles US standards for safety.

With these hurdles completed, it would seem production is imminent, but other factors may hinder the US launch. India's car sales are on a dramatic trajectory upward. The sales pace combined with an industry wide parts shortage is impacting home market sales, which will have an affect on the United States introduction.

In closing, I know each of you anxiously await the arrival of the Mahindra trucks, and I am confident that you will see a launch announcement in the next few months.

If you haven't seen the Specsheet on the trucks yet, please click on the link below to see it.

Click here to view Specsheet

Or copy and place the following into your browser:


John A. Perez
Global Vehicles USA, Inc.
1720 Windward Concourse
Suite 400
Alpharetta, GA 30005

They Want Trucks!

Well, not just trucky trucks, they also want crossovers.  But still, Americans are not buying increasing numbers of small cars, which may force some very interesting discussions in Sacramento and Washington.  From AP:

The category – known as light-duty trucks – made up 54 percent of all new U.S. vehicle sales last month, compared with 46 percent for cars, according to industry tracker J.D. Power and Associates. It's the biggest difference since December 2005, when trucks accounted for 56 percent of sales.

Which continues to show that Americans want large cars and cheap gas--not small, fuel efficient cars.   If Washington forces the automakers to push small cars in a market that doesn't want them, there will be a strong political backlash.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Review: Dyson DC31 Animal Vac

The Dyson company recently sent me a Dyson DC31 Animal vacuum to review, as part of "Clean Your Garage Day", a made-up holiday dedicated to cleaning up garages.

The DC31 is a handheld vacuum with a 22V Li-on battery. It has Dyson's signature industrial/colorful design, and comes with a motorized brush attachment. It has a high power button on the back, which increases the suction but reduces run time. The DC31 Animal has an attractive metallic purple and gunmetal color scheme, with controls clearly marked with red.

The DC31 takes about 3 hours to charge, and will run for about 10 minutes in normal mode without the motorized brush, and about 6 minutes in high output mode. Using the brush probably costs some run time, but I didn't bother to measure it.

I used the DC31 to vacuum out my very crummy car. It didn't last long enough to do the front and back halves, I was only able to vacuum the (very dirty) front floor and seats before the battery ran out. That is in part because I was using the high suction mode, and I also used the motorized brush to get some stubborn crumbs out of the seat cushions. As we always say in this business, your mileage may vary. While it lasted, it did quite a good job.

I would have liked if Dyson had a plug-in mode, to allow the machine to run off of a car's 12v power supply through the accessory plug. Perhaps a module which replaces the battery, and includes a DC step-up transformer to generate the needed 20v for the motor? There also isn't an easy way to recharge the unit in a vehicle, you would need a DC to AC transformer to do it.

The vac is not very small, but it isn't terribly heavy, and with the
battery well balanced at the end of the pistol grip. I give the ergonomics a mixed grade, it is natural to hold and point, very much like a cordless drill, but the long overall length means that it is ungainly to maneuver in tight spaces, unlike a more traditional vacuum with a flexible hose.

The Dyson uses what they call a "digital motor", which from what I can tell is a high speed brushless DC motor, to spin the impeller and create the vacuum. It has a built in digital controller. It is smooth, with very little vibration, but it is quite loud, making a high pitched whine and whistle sounding similar to a cordless drill. I found the noise to be annoying because of its high pitch.

The other main issue I have with the Dyson DC31 is that it is expensive. Retail price is around $270, or about what you would pay for a good quality cordless drill. Dyson argues that they are offering a premium product, and I don't disagree--but not everyone is ready for a hand vac that has the Apple treatment, innovation at a high price.

  • Excellent suction for the size
  • Nice motorized brush attachment
  • Easy to empty
  • Good ergonomics
  • Dyson's hallmark design
  • Long 2-year warranty

  • No wall-mount feature
  • No way run off of vehicle power or recharge in vehicle.
  • 3.5hrs of charging only gets you 10min of runtime
  • Trigger must be held down continuously, no way to keep it running
  • Can be awkward to maneuver in tight spaces
  • High pitched whistling sound
  • Expensive

In conclusion, the Dyson DC31 makes a very good car vacuum if you are quick about your cleaning, and would like to own a premium product. It makes quick work of small, dirty jobs.

Engineering School Q&A

A student emailed me asking about how to go about getting into the automotive engineering business. Here are my answers.
I stumbled across your blog through an internet search and found your writing to be very interesting. I am a 24-year-old Mechanical Engineering student, and I have plans to go into Automotive Engineering.

Some advice on the best way to become an Automotive Engineer would be very helpful. I spent 6 years out of highchool as a diesel/auto technician before going back to school. Is this going to be a help for me as an engineer later on?
It depends. If you are going into part of the business that is service related, such as service and diagnostics (the guys who write service manuals, develop procedures, etc.) this is very valuable experience. And it is valuable in general if you are going to be involved in hands-on vehicle work.
Is there any drafting software I can get to experement with on my own time in order to put me ahead of the game later on?
Again, it depends what you are going into. If you are going to be a designer, or a release engineer who releases parts that someone else has designed, CAD is very useful. If you aren't going to be dealing with part design as much, for example you are in the vehicle testing side of things, it is less useful. The concepts among different CAD programs are probably similar, so I wouldn't sweat it too much--it is the thinking in 3D, and the craft of drawing up designs which matters. You can get a cheap copy of TurboCAD and go to town.

And most importantly: I've almost finished up my basic courses and plan to transfer to a 4-year university to finish my education. What qualities do I need to look for in an engineering program?
Look for engineering programs that have relationships with industry. You want to get into an internship, or co-op type situation if you can. This will give you invaluable experience and may line you up for a job later, if they like you. Look for schools that have good placement records--how many students go on to get jobs in their field? Look for schools that offer hands-on activities such as Formula SAE or similar competitions. Look for schools that have lab facilities for engineers where they can actually build and test things.
How much does the university matter to prospective employers?
Not super much. I have met brilliant engineers from smaller, less exclusive schools. I have also met idiots from places like Cornell. If you go to a decent school which has a good reputation in industry, and you do well, you will be looked at.

Some other advice. If you can hook up with an engineering professor who is running a lab and working on neat stuff, especially if it is grant funded neat stuff like military research, do so. Being on a project, doing real work, is always a plus.

Volt: Quicker With Gas

Edmunds did a track test on the Chevy Volt.  One interesting result is that the Volt is nearly 1s faster from 0-75mph when using the gasoline range extender than in pure EV mode.  Hmmm... could it be because some gasoline torque is going to the wheels?  Just asking.