Mustang Parts
   Carrying Saleen wheels and Bullitt wheels.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Consumer Reports Pushing 62 MPG

One of the reasons I dropped my personal Consumer Reports subscription is that they have become consistently liberal in their outlook, taking the sides of intrusive regulation by the government.

Today CR issues a statement supporting a high (62 MPG) fuel economy.  One of their arguments is that vehicles can be reduced in mass without necessarily becoming less safe.  For small differences in mass, this is probably true. 

Importantly, reducing vehicle mass will be essential in improving fuel economy. Consumer Reports is confident that lighter vehicles will not necessarily compromise vehicle safety. For example, a contemporary family sedan such as the Hyundai Sonata weighs 3,210 pounds and still achieves a Top Safety Pick by the IIHS. It weighs 7.5% less than its previous generation and about 6% less than the average family sedan. By contrast, a Chrysler 200 weighs 3,590 pounds (also a Top-Safety Pick) but with no performance or interior room advantage. The new Honda Civic at 2,810 pounds also received a Top Safety Pick and weighs 400 pounds less (about 9%) than the Chevrolet Cruze, a direct competitor.

However, they make a big mistake here--they refer to IIHS test results between vehicles that are about 400# different.  It is critically important to remember that crash test results such as IIHS and NHTSA, when they are intended to mimic front crashes, simulate a car hitting another car of the same weight.  

What happens when a heavier car hits a lighter car is not pretty.  Here are some great videos by IIHS which make this very point.  Here is the report.

Everything else being equal, heavier cars tend to be safer than lighter cars, and forcing people into lighter cars will, on average, reduce their safety.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Buick Wagon Lust

I can't remember the last time I felt open, unguarded lust about a Buick.  But now GM comes out with a Buick turbo wagon, as if breathing the ghost of Saab back into Buick.  Please tell us, GM, that this lovely piece of rolling practical sculpture will come with manual transmission.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Obama Leaks Some Oil

Obama's energy department yesterday announced it would release 30 million barrels of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, which holds a total of about 726 million barrels, or about 160 days supply at the maximum withdraw rate of 4.4 million barrels/day.  For reference, U.S. consumption is currently about 20 million barrels/day total, of which about 10 million barrels/day is imported.  

So Obama just spent $12.5 billion (at market prices) to temporarily lower oil prices.  In theory, this will soften the effect of lost Libyan production.  

The problem is, the energy department will have to refill the reserves, buy purchasing the 30 million barrels, or waiting to paid in royalties from oil producers.  

I am not sure if this was a valid use of the SPR, as we should be careful not to blow our oil reserves whenever the price gets high--it should truly be reserved for emergencies.   Loss of production from Libya is not an emergency--it was a foolish policy decision by the U.S. and NATO to go to war with wily Col. Gaddafi.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Senate Votes To End Ethanol Tariff

About damn time.  

The ethanol tariff and subsidy were essentially welfare for corn farmers, and perversely, most of the subsidy goes to agricultural giants like Archer Daniels Midland.  

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Natural Gas to Ethanol

Now here is a form of ethanol production I have no problem with.  Dallas TX based Celanese says it has a process to make ethanol relatively cheaply from natural gas.  

However, because the ethanol is produced from a fossil fuel, it doesn't qualify as a renewable fuel, and therefore can't be used to satisfy the renewable fuel mandates that are driving corn based ethanol.  So unless the law is changed, corn ethanol will continue to drive up food prices and eat tax money.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Romney And Ethanol

Mitt Romney, pandering to Iowans, has come out in support of ethanol subsidies.  

I'm going to have a hard time supporting the guy in the primary.

Ethanol subsidies, like other agricultural price supports, are reverse-robin-hood: they take from the poor (us) and give to the mostly rich (large farms and Big Ag).  

Here's an idea: how about we let ethanol follow market forces.  If no one wants the stuff, there will be less produced, and farmers can plant wheat and barley instead, to make proper methanol.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

GM CEO: Raise The Gas Tax

GM's CEO, Dan "plain speaker" Akerson said in an interview with Detroit News:

"There ought to be a discussion on the cost versus the benefits," he said. "What we are going to do is tax production here, and that will cost us jobs." For the years 2017-25, federal officials are considering 3 percent to 6 percent annual fuel efficiency increases, or 47 mpg to 62 mpg. That could boost the cost of vehicles by up to  3,500. "You know what I'd rather have them do — this will make my Republican friends puke — as gas is going to go down here now, we ought to just slap a 50-cent or a dollar tax on a gallon of gas," Akerson said. "People will start buying more Cruzes and they will start buying less Suburbans."

He is of course, correct: it would be easier to push the market towards buying efficient cars by keeping gas expensive... easier for the carmakers, not for the consumer.  The consumer wants the pain hidden--we want cheap gas and efficient cars (but not too expensive, thank you).  However, the last part of his quote, "People will start buying more Cruzes..." is not what the CEO should really want--GM probably makes a much nicer margin on Suburbans than on Cruzes.   GM's top selling product is still the Silverado/Sierra.

Also, a gas tax now would hurt consumer spending, now, and slow economic recovery--hurting GM's sales. 

Akerson should be careful, he isn't going to win any friends among his customers, or on Wall Street, with so much plain speaking.

Monday, June 06, 2011

GM's Akerson Eulogizes LIncoln

In an uncharacteristically (for GM) blunt statement, GM's CEO said

"They are trying like hell to resurrect Lincoln. Well, I might as well tell you, you might as well sprinkle holy water. It's over," he said about Cadillac's historical competitor."

He's right, of course, that Lincoln is struggling.  

But, he shouldn't be too proud of Cadillac--at 11,600 sales in May of this year, Cadillac is still well behind BMW (20,600) and Mercedes (20,300), and even Lexus (12,300).   

Friday, June 03, 2011

Mazda Manufacturing To Leave US?

According to The Detroit News, an unnamed source is saying that Mazda plans to leave the AAI plant in Flat Rock, MI, which would make Mazda a true import brand once again, with models coming from Japan and Mexico.

I understand that Mazda has a business to run, and that the Mazda6 (a good car) is not a great seller, but I am a little disappointed.  I once owned one of AAI's previous products, the Mazda 626, which was a good handling but cramped mid-sized sedan.  It was fun to point to my "foreign" Mazda and tell people it was assembled in Michigan by UAW labor.