Archive for July 2009
For anyone out there who doubted the potential success of the “Cash for Clunkers” program, for shame! Barely a week after its launch so many people lined up to cash in their guzzlers for new cars it was reported that the program was going to have to be suspended due to concerns that the government was burning through funding too quickly to keep up with demand. Automotive News reported:
“A preliminary analysis by the Transportation Department shows that dealers sold 250,000 vehicles with the government benefit since July 1. The program began in earnest a week ago, when rules were released.” (1)
To keep the sales rolling in, the House passed legislation to add another $2 billion to the $1 billion budget. If it passes in the Senate next week, the money would be pulled from a U.S. loan-guarantee program for renewable energy systems that was funded by the stimulus package earlier this year. (1)
Already, industry leaders and MotorSpaceNW bloggers alike are spreading word of what’s being called a glimmer of hope in an industry that’s been struggling to get back to its feet after the recession knocked its clock silly with a slow-motion roundhouse kick of “Bloodsport” proportions (Jean-Claude Van Damme, circa 1988).
“The downward spiral has been broken. We saw a stabilization in sales in the second quarter, and there will be a recovery in automotive sales,” Mike Jackson, CEO of the largest U.S. dealership group, AutoNation Inc., said in an interview. “There's no question about it.” (1)
On a personal note, <Begin Rant> I just found out my 1991 Dodge Dynasty is eligible for the clunkers program by 1 mpg! But I still can’t afford to buy a new car! Because even with a $4,500 voucher I would still have to make up the extra six grand or so it would cost to bring home something on par with a new Kia Rio. That’s right, a Rio.
You see, cash for clunkers doesn’t raise the impoverished car enthusiast from despondency because it doesn’t help people who aren't close to being able to afford a new car in the first place. For the little guy, cash for clunkers is nothing more than a bucket of fish heads dangled just out of my reach.
It’s getting pretty bad - the Dynasty is beginning her slow crawl out into the woods to die, and once she gets above 20 mph, the doors lock automatically.
As you may recall, about a month ago she dropped her muffler in the sweltering but crack of rush hour traffic like a starving leper thankful to be rid of the dead weight on a laborious pilgrimage to the next gas station. I let her have her way and pretended the extra noise was two extra cylinders.
Several weeks later I was beginning to feel pretty cheap and decided to take her to the local Les Schwab for a free tire rotation. They informed me it would be illegal for them to perform such a procedure because the tires were so far beyond needing to be replaced.
I took my free bag of stale popcorn and bid them good day. Several weeks later the left rear exploded, stranding me in rush hour traffic in 80-degree heat. The spare didn’t appear to be adequately inflated but I was too close to home to pay for a tow truck. We hobbled the rest of the way with the hazards on while the mini half-exhausted clown tire giggled the Dynasty's sloppy suspension about in a lurid testament to why cash for clunkers is an incentive, not a means to buy a new car.
Mustang fans will be happy to know that the legendary muscle pony will officially be entering NASCAR for the first time in the 2010 Nationwide Series. “We're excited about Mustang coming to NASCAR,” said Brian Wolfe, director of Ford North America Motorsports, “It's the most successful product nameplate in racing history, and it seems only right that it should be coming to the most popular form of racing in North America.
“We had been talking with NASCAR for some time about Mustang as part of its vision for a ‘muscle car' rollout for the Nationwide Series. We both saw it as a way of differentiating the series from Sprint Cup,” said Wolfe. “We loved the idea, so we jumped on the chance to extend Mustang's racing legacy to a new series reaching a huge and loyal audience. Mustang has dominated other forms of racing, including NHRA drag racing, Grand-Am Cup road racing, and Formula D drifting, and now it's coming to NASCAR Nationwide.” (1)
Ford Racing has already gone through the official NASCAR submission and approval process for the new racing Stang - Parts production will begin later this fall after templates are finalized (the picture above is the official rendering).
“We're excited about the new car in the NASCAR Nationwide Series, and particularly the new body styles such as the Ford Mustang,” said NASCAR President Mike Helton. “It's going to be one good-looking race car.” (1)
For the full press release, see: http://jalopnik.com/5324888/ford-mustang-officially-coming-to-nascar?skyline=true&s=i
In other Blue Oval News, Ford recently announced that their Ecoboost technology, already known for milking V8 performance from V6 engines will soon be implemented in new 4-cylinder engines which will capable of producing V6 power without sacrificing four-banger fuel economy.
The 2.0-liter 4-cylinder Ecoboost is expected to produce at LEAST 230-horsepower and at LEAST 240 pound-feet of torque. Ford has hinted that the engine’s first appearance may not be in one of their cars. Edmunds Straightline believes that since the engine will most likely replace Ford’s 3.0 liter V-6, the next Escape could see the Ecoboost on its option list. (2)
Other applications could include the Focus, Fiesta and Fusion as Ford has said that it will eventually offer Ecoboost engines throughout its entire lineup.
Want a $9,000 voucher for buying a new car, or an assault rifle? No problem, just head to a participating Chrysler dealer or down south to Max Motors in Missouri. It’s a tense buyer’s market and we could all use a little extra cash in the mattress or another AK-47 under the bed (for the wife?). Chrysler gets it. Starting July 23 and running through August, Chrysler Group is doubling the recently passed cashed-for-guzzlers incentive by offering up to another $4,500 good towards the majority of their 2009 models.
Only, to receive Chrysler’s incentive consumers don’t have to have a car that’s been approved for the guzzlers plan - that’s the point.
“We didn't want consumers without qualifying vehicles to feel left out, so we are offering up to $4,500 to everyone,” said Steven Beahm, Chrysler's vice president for sales operations.”
If the cash rebate isn’t enticing enough to prospective buyers, they can instead choose 0 percent financing for 72 months for the $4,500 vehicles and 0 percent financing for 60 months on the $3,500 vehicles. From Auto News:
“Speaking to dealers in a conference call, Peter Fong, Chrysler's lead sales executive, said Chrysler wanted to help dealers unload older inventory and focus on customers who might not qualify for the cash-for-guzzlers program.”
‘I would venture 90 percent-plus folks will not qualify for the program when you go through the check list,’ he told dealers. ‘We've essentially qualified everybody out there.’ (1)
VEHICLES & REBATES
$4,500: PT Cruiser, Sebring sedan, Asepn
$3,500: 300, Town & Country, Sebring Convertible
$4,500: Grand Cherokee, Commander
$3,500: Patriot, Compass, Liberty
$1,500 bonus cash: Wrangler
$4,500: Avenger, Durango, Ram heavy duty including chassis cab
$3,500: Charger, Journey, Grand Caravan, Ram light duty, Caliber, Nitro, Dakota
The official name of the cash-for-guzzlers program is CARS (Car Allowance Rebate System). To learn more and see if your car qualifies for a voucher visit www.cars.gov/.
Unfortunately for gun lovers, neither Chrysler nor the Federal Government is handing out assault rifles to stimulate car sales. But Mark Muller, owner of Max Motors in Butler, Missouri thinks it’s a great idea.
“We're just not going to give people an AK-47 gun. Felons buy cars, too,” he said. “What we are going to do is we're going to give them a voucher where they can go to their local gun dealer, or we have local gun dealers we would strongly recommend where they can buy a gun and go through the proper background checks so the guns wind up in the right hands.” (2)
As for the safety of Max Motors:
“That way it separates you from anything bad that could happen,” Muller said. “We'll put it in the hands of professionals who do this every day.” (2)
Buffering the financial security of the deal, this isn’t the first time Muller gave away gun vouchers in an attempt to sell more cars, and it’s not the first time it worked.
“Last year we gave away a free handgun with the purchase of any vehicle, and it went over very well. It spiked our web traffic and we sold, we estimate, 35 extra cars during the promotion than we normally would have, and this year we're trying to sell an extra 100 cars more than we normally would,” Muller said. (2)
The gun vouchers are set to be given away during the month of August. I haven’t looked into the actual possibilities yet, but Max Motors sells new Chryslers, Dodges and Jeeps…nine grand off a new Chrysler and a free AK-47 would be one hell of a deal.
I’m on a Hyundai kick. I test drove one after another until I could critique them no more. Why you ask? Because Car Pros Hyundai treated me like a king and who doesn’t like that? Also, if you haven’t forgotten we’re working our way up to a review of the Camaro SS and I’d like to bait the hook with several “sporty” cars before dropping the hammer on a 425hp monster that’s sure to rock this blog like a hurricane. Befittingly then, the first Hyundai to accommodate MotorSpaceNW this sunny week was:
GENESIS COUPE 2.0 T (Starts at $22,000)
Lowdown: She was red and perky with a 210 hp turbocharged inline 4-cylinder, five-speed paddle shifter and a delightful 223 lb-ft of Torque. There was nothing fast about this car but that wasn’t the point. Zip, scoot, fun – you can mash the hell out of it, have a great time and still manage gas mileage in the twenties. Nurse it on the free ways and she’s good for 30 mpg.
Likes: Paddle shifters can be little more than floppy, unresponsive toys to make boring cars feel like you’re a real “driver,” but this wasn’t the case with the Shiftronic on the Genesis Coupe. I was skeptical of the finger flaps at first but they turned out to be respectably precise. It didn’t hurt that the little 4-cylinder begs to be played with at all times and isn’t satisfied unless it’s pinned wide open.
For interior roominess I’d take the Genesis hands down over the new Mustang. When I test-drove the GT it fit like a glove that was almost too tight. The bulging lines of the Stang’s body combined with the low-cut roof ate up driver visibility like oversized Trapezius muscles can make a body builder’s neck disappear. In contrast the Genesis feels like a sedan without the back seat, because it is.
Gripes: For all the fun it still feels like a starter sports car: The front seats don’t provide much side-support to hold you in place around turns and the 2.0 isn’t much engine without some serious help from the turbo charger, which takes a deep breath before kicking in if you’re not careful to keep it wound up to the sweet spot.
Bottom Line: Has go-cart charm to spare and is sure to bring out the 12 year-old in just about anyone. Just don’t expect to win too many races.
TUCSON V6 (Starts at $18,095)
Lowdown: I don’t remember much from my drive in the Tucson and that’s not a good sign. Granted, it’s supposed to compete with the Toyota RAV 4 and already that’s a discussion that makes my left eye drift away to a more interesting place. If any of you would like more details on my time spent behind the wheel of the Tucson leave a request on the comment board and I’ll do a blog on it just for you. In the meantime here are a list of words to describe how the Tucson made me feel:
Gripes: Looks like the fat Baldwin brother of Hyundai’s otherwise smartly designed lineup -In my personal opinion. I'm sure plenty of people think it's a very attractive automobile.
Bottom Line: I'll pass.
SANTA FE Limited ($28,845)
Of all the vehicles I drove at Car Pros, the Santa Fe best encompasses all that Hyundai has going for them. Just about everywhere you expect a top of the class car to impress, it does, but without shooting for the industry pinnacle most of us don’t need or could bring ourselves to pay for.
Likes: A loaded Santa Fe costs less than most of the competition starts at. The back seats coddle your butt like the spacious palm of a giant’s leathery hand (as if he were a carpenter), there’s plenty of power, fun factor, and all around it feels like more than it costs.
Gripes: While power is ample it wont keep up with some of the higher-end competition.
Bottom Line: You might be silly to pay more for a Lexus, Acura or BMW. Downright silly.
’08 AZERA Limited (’09 starts at $24,970)
Lowdown: Imagine a BMW 328i made by Hyundai, but with an extra 30hp (263) and a price tag that’s about 10k lighter. Now imagine all that an extra 10 grand can do for a car. Still interested? Read on.
Likes: Out on the highway the Azera was a blast; besides making the Genesis Coupe squeal with finger tickles, jumping from 50mph-75mph in the Azera was the most fun I had all day.
Gripes: Where are the ultra-plush seats and undeserved air of accomplishment? Answer: Possibly in the ten grand that was shaved off the price tag. For some it would be a stretch to call the Azera a true luxury car.
Bottom Line: Shouldn’t disappoint anyone who can appreciate the savings, especially after a test drive.
BIG THANKS to everyone at Car Pros Hyundai of Seattle. Especially to Antonio A. Sanchez for personally putting up with my shenanigans for the better portion of a very hot day on the lot - I was impressed, and found Hyundai has quite a few offerings outside of economy cars that I probably wouldn’t have paid much attention to had I not been able to get behind the wheel. Take a look for yourself at www.carpros.com or visit them in person at 14005 Aurora Ave. N. Seattle, WA 98177.
*The Hyundai prices listed here were taken from www.hyundaiusa.com and may not reflect Car Pros Hyundai's prices.
Land Rover Encino took the opportunity to milk some serious product placement out of MICHAEL JACKSON's untimely death by providing close to a dozen Range Rovers and Rolls Royce’s to the Jackson family, free of charge, for use in the late entertainer’s ultra-publicized memorial service. The vehicles were used to transport the Jacksons and other celebrity guests to Forest Lawn cemetery for the funeral service and also to LA’s Staples Center where the televised service took place. Some of the vehicles were supercharged, others were not.
In return for the free use of the luxury rides Land Rover Encino didn’t have to pay for the daylong exposure their autos received in the media parade. Of course, there may not have have been an official deal on the matter. Thriller touched a great many lives and perhaps a few of those at the Encino dealership simply wanted to help the Jackson family through their time of mourning with comfortable transportation. Making sure to include a few supercharged models for the procession was a particularly touching gesture (Barf). (1) (2)
The last time URINE was turned into anything useful may have been in Kevin Costner’s epic floater, “Water World.” Until now that is: Scientists at Ohio University have discovered a way to extract hydrogen from human urine that can be used as fuel for fuel cell and hydrogen cars. From iCars Singapore:
“According to the research, it is easier to extract hydrogen from urine, rather than extracting it from water. To retrieve it from water, more energy is needed, which then defeats the entire purpose in a way. This finding is made possible thanks to the fact that there is Ammonia in urine, and Ammonia is made up by one nitrogen atom and two hydrogen atoms.”
Entrepreneurs might want to start bottling their urine in the cellar. By the time relieving yourself has become a laborious victory several generations from now, hydrogen powered cars could be the norm. Who’ll be crazy then? Certainly not the old man down the street who sells a lifetime’s worth of mason jars filled to the brim with his liquid gold to the local hydrogen station!
If this sets your prospecting wheel a turning or if you’re at all scientifically inclined the description of the study and its findings can be found here:
BERNIE ECCLESTONE is the billionaire President and CEO of Formula 1, and accordingly he doesn’t seem to give a #@!% what people think of him. In a recent interview with The Times, he discussed the merits of Hitler and Saddam Hussein and took great issue with democracy as being a destructive threat to modern society. Needless to say the article caused quite a stir. Here are the juicier excerpts of his crazy train chugging up the mountain to its self-destructive peak:
“If you have a look at a democracy it hasn’t done a lot of good for many countries — including this one. I like people who make up their minds. If you have to keep referring to your grandmother before you do anything I think that’s dumb. I make decisions, sometimes wrong, sometimes right — so long as you get more things right than wrong then that’s OK.”
Well that’s not so bad. Contrasting his personal management style with democracy shouldn’t ruffle too many feathers. No harm or foul so far.
“Politicians are too worried about elections. We did a terrible thing when we supported the idea of getting rid of Saddam Hussein, he was the only one who could control that country. It was the same [with the Taleban]. We move into countries and we have no idea of the culture. The Americans probably thought Bosnia was a town in Miami. There are people starving in Africa and we sit back and do nothing, but we get involved in things we should leave alone.”
He’s climbing up on a soapbox now, but these are still acceptable views even if they are a bit edgy and off topic for guy who’s supposed to be talking about cars. Go on then, Bernie.
“In a lot of ways, terrible to say this I suppose, but apart from the fact that Hitler got taken away and persuaded to do things that I have no idea whether he wanted to do or not, he was in the way that he could command a lot of people able to get things done.”
“In the end he got lost so he wasn’t a very good dictator. Either he knew what was going on and insisted, or he just went along with it — either way he wasn’t a dictator.” (4) (5)
Oooh, that’s probably not going to fly with the Jewish community. Those sorts of sentiments are generally best kept as “inside thoughts,” especially, once again, when you’re the CEO of Formula 1 and being interviewed by a major newspaper. Ecclestone later authored an article in The Times titled “I was a fool to talk about admiring Hitler,” a much different prompt than “What I did over summer break.” Here’s the link to the subsequent piece he wrote:
It’s really more of an explanation than an apology and goes into even greater detail as to why Ecclestone admires certain aspects of Hitler's legacy and still doesn't think much of democracy.
Several billion dollars must afford some big cajones.
Billy Mays, the lovable salesman who managed to hawk some of the finest, err, most alluring automotive wares ever to grace the television airwaves in spite of his AMBER Alert beard has died. With his new show “Pitchmen,” Mays’ popularity was reaching an all-time high and the future was looking even more promising.
Then without warning he hit the windshield of life harder than an insect shot from the canon of the “bug bazooka” he used to demonstrate the cleaning power of a heavy-duty windshield wiper. From St. Petersburg Times:
“‘This is a bug bazooka,’ Billy Mays bellowed. “‘It's filled with hundreds of bugs.’”
“They blew through 3,000 crickets in eight takes. There were malfunctions and a misfire that littered a craft services food table 30 feet away with crickets. But a paint ball gun held in reserve never was needed. Asked before one take if the crickets were dead, bazooka prop master Justin Stamper replied: ‘Some are.’” (1)
Classic. In memoriam, I'd like to steal an idea I saw on another blog and take a moment to relive three of Mays’ finest moments selling auto care products:
1. What Odor? - A spray used to eliminate unwanted odors, perfect for use in a smelly car.
(Mays is holding a live skunk with its rear end pointing towards his chest)
“This is a real live skunk! The worst smell of all!
(The skunk sprays him)
“I’ll spray myself down with some What Odor?
(Sprays himself with What Odor?)
“And it get’s rid of the worst smell of them all, a skunk!”
2. The Ding King - Removes dings and dents with professional results.
“What do you do when you get a ding or dent in your car?”
(Smashes hood with a maul.)
3. Simoniz Liquid Diamond - The most durable shine ever put in a bottle.
(Close up shot of a skillet-sized fire burning on a car hood.)
(A fire extinguisher poofs it out.)
(Mays’ hand appears and wipes the blemish off the paint with a cloth)
“Not even fire can penetrate the protection of Liquid Diamond!”
4. Mighty Putty - The epoxy equivalent to welding.
(Mays fashions a chain link out of Mighty Puddy, adds it to a real chain, attaches the chain to a cinder block and holding the chain around his arm drops the cinder block between his feet; the chain holds. A crewmember that is lying on the floor off camera swings his hand confidently into the frame under the block).
“It has the muscle to support up to 350 pounds!”
RIP Billy. You will be missed.
Billy Mays Videos:
Ding King - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0JGXbIfeuRY
Mighty Putty - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xkvBib3Zndk
What Odor? - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m40Oa2VzIVs
Liquid Diamond - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f_IBGQIo9EE