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Brandon Seiler's Blog on Cars

2009 New York International Auto Show Winners/Losers

With the show underway, it’s time to give a tip of the hat or a wave of the finger to several of the more notable cars already revealed from beneath their silky coverings. 

The ultimate goal for carmakers is to sell, obviously, but the game has changed with times being as they are. The stakes for many are set at survival in the coming months, and cars that wont make the grade with both consumers and the new standards set by the Obama Administration are fast becoming a thing of the past. Here’s my picks: 
  



TIP OF THE HAT:

2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee

The 2011 Grand Cherokee will be the first Chrysler LLC vehicle to feature the new, much talked about Pentastar V6 engine. The new base-option 3.6-liter flex fuel Pentastar makes 280 hp and 260 lb-foot of torque, a 70 hp improvement over Chrysler’s current 3.7-liter V-6 while increasing fuel economy by 11 percent.

The Pentastar will replace seven Chrysler engines and can be used in both front-and rear wheel drive configurations, Frank Klegon, executive vice president of product development, said in an interview during the show. (2) 

Reducing their number of engine options with will save Chrysler money and in essence the V-6 Pentastar could be Chrysler’s modern day equivalent to the legendary GM 350. 

Outside of the increased power and efficiency of the Pentastar, the new Grand Cherokee is 5.3 inches longer, giving rear passengers more than four extra inches of legroom. Overall, the cargo volume is up by 6.8 cubic feet and the iconic exterior styling has been smoothed, reducing drag by 7 percent.

Bottom Line: The 2011 Grand Cherokee and the Pentastar engine represent the kind of long term good decision making Chrysler needs with applications that will help right now. 

TIP OF THE HAT:

Honda Dog Friendly Element Concept

People actually buy crap like this. A production version of Honda’s Dog pampering mobile will go on sale this fall. The Dog Friendly Element caters to the nearly 74.8 million dogs in the United States with features such as a cushioned bed in the cargo area, pet restraint systems for the second row and cargo space, a rear ventilation fan and a spill-resistant water bowl. Also included is an extendable ramp out the back to ease animal travel to and from their personal suite. 

In addition to the pet owner luxury items, the Element’s already dog friendly hose-safe urethane floor now comes adorned with rubber floor mats sporting a toy-bone pattern. The second-row seat covers also have dog patterns, because dogs like things like that. Right? 

According to Auto Week, the pet market was valued by the American Pet Products Manufacturers Association at more than $43 billion last year. (3) It would seem then that when it comes to car marketing, a Dog Friendly Element might not be as crazy as it sounds. 

Bottom Line: Grab a slice of that hairy golden pie, Honda! 

WAVE OF THE FINGER:

2009 Cadillac Escalade Platinum Hybrid

Now that GM is surviving on taxpayers’ bailout money, if this one doesn’t bother you it really should. It’s no secret that in the competition for being the most-hated gas guzzling luxury SUV, the Escalade has little competition beyond the Hummer. Slapping a two-mode hybrid system on one of these excess-mobiles and several dozen emblems and decals proclaiming it’s a “green” car is beyond any realm of reason or logic at this point in GM’s history; they’re just too damn big to be efficient.

The Platinum Hybrid comes equipped with a 6.0 liter V-8 rated at 332 hp and 367 lb.-ft of torque. Weighing in at more than 7,000 pounds, the hybrid option boosts the city fuel economy to an insulting 20mpg. 

What’s more, tacking on the Hybrid option adds another $3,600 to the Platinum’s $85,885 base price. Considering that $3,600 is enough to buy a decent 4-cyl used car that will rack up well over 30mpg on the highway, it’s hard to think of a practical reason to put that kind of money towards improving an Escalade's fuel-economy from horrible to mediocre. 

Unless you have deep pockets and are in to the pseudo environmentalist fad. 

Bottom Line: The Escalade Platinum Hybrid represents the fart smell Rick Wagoner left at GM.

WAVE OF THE FINGER

GM Puma

GM had its heart in the right place with the Puma, but that doesn’t make it right. First of all, it’s based on the Segway. You know, the flash in the pan two-wheeled electric scooter that threw George W. Bush to the pavement when the battery died? 

Now GM is teaming with Segway to employ the same technology with the Puma, a two-wheeled two-seater electric car. GM claims it could be driven without human control as part a of a transponder and GPS communications network that would regulate the flow of traffic throughout an area and make crashes impossible.

The 300-pound-prototype has a lithium-ion battery for a power source that can propel the little invention to 35 miles-per-hour and run 35 miles on a single charge. Ideally, GM hopes that its total operating cost including purchase price, insurance, maintenance and fuel would total between one-fourth and one-third of the average traditional vehicle.

According to the Seattle Times:

“Larry Burns, GM's vice president of research and development, and strategic planning, said the project is part of Detroit-based GM's effort to remake itself as a purveyor of fuel-efficient vehicles. If Hummer took GM to the large-vehicle extreme, Burns said, the PUMA takes GM to the other.”

“As a result, the PUMA vehicles would not need air bags or other traditional safety devices and include safety belts for ‘comfort purposes’ only, he said.” (5) 

First of all, we are not anywhere near moving towards driverless cars in this country. C’mon, it’s just not going to happen any time soon. What’s more disheartening is that GM really thinks safety features such as air bags and seatbelts are unnecessary in a scooter-car crossover small enough to be dragged under a bus or Escalade Platinum Hybrid like a tumbleweed. 

Bottom Line: In good times the Puma would be a healthy exercise in future transportation, but right now GM’s future is on life support.

What do you think? Will any of these cars sell?

Sources/Full Stories:
(1)http://www.autoweek.com/article/20090408/NEWYORK/304089998
(2)http://www.autoweek.com/article/20090409/CARNEWS/904099985
(3) http://www.autoweek.com/article/20090408/NEWYORK/904089997
(4)http://www.trucktrend.com/autoshows/coverage/163_0904_2009_new_york_auto_show/2009_cadillac_escalade_platinum_hybrid.html
(5) http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/businesstechnology/2008996557_apgeneralmotorssegway.html


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Brandon Seiler is a bonafide car guy, member of the Northwest Auto Press Association and proud Washingtonian. He covers the latest auto news, technology, and pretty much anything having to do with car culture. You don't have to like cars to read his blogs, you just have to be able to read.

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