American automakers miss the target .. again

Take Ford’s new and mostly unimpressive 24mpg crossover (The ‘Flex’, yes Adobe you can sue them for taking your product name just like Microsoft would want to sue Saturn for using their word ‘Outlook’) uh, where was I —

Oh yeah, so when the ads hit the airwaves, someone has to wonder what sort of crack pipe the big 4 are smoking given the thousands of SUVs and trucks collecting dust on fledgling American dealerships across the country.

The ad copy should read, ‘Here, buy a big gas guzzling flex, it comes with a built-in refrigerator! Oh, and by the way, please let us steal your tax dollars because everyone is buying those import fuel-efficient vehicles the past 10 years while we’ve been losing money canceling the EV-1 and other projects the oil companies don’t want us to do.’

Sorry this is an angry rant, for sensitive ppl you can move on to the next article (and with my apologies)

Bail-out? How about a government loan with strict standards for MPG, durability, safety, and non-fuel technology, including no golden parachute and no big executive salary perks until the workforce and production has returned to normal levels?

The American automakers can take a page of history and learn from the small car makers in the area of safety as well.

Everytime some lug in a pickup truck fills his tank next to my smart car and makes some remark about getting into an accident, I have to point out that given the same barrier, my smart would bounce off and the passenger compartment is protected by a massive tridion safety cell that surrounds it, while his truck would crumple into said obstacle before intruding into the footwells, crushing his legs and breaking his ribs. While his smushed car would be opened by the jaws of life and his remains carried away by stretcher, I’d simply walk away unscathed.. Ouch.. Is it really smart to buy big fat American cars? How about the idea of swerving to avoid an accident altogether? There’s a reason they put MINIs on the race track, because they can turn on a dime and give you 9 cents change. Ever try and turn a behemothmobile at speed? No?

Next, let’s look at the Chevy Nomad crossover concept. Whoever said copying stuff was a form of flattery probably works for GM. In a move similar to BMW’s penchant for reviving old monikers for its MINI brand of automobiles (cooper, checkmate, sidewalk, clubman, moke, need I go on?)

I give you the concept “Chevy Nomad” (well, a classic Nomad this is not..) Chevy wants to call this a Nomad, but it looks more like a new MINI clubman than the iconic big Chevy of old.. see my post on Miniology for a tamer version of this crazy soapbox.

In an effort to tug a bit at the heartstrings of auto enthusiasts, they slap a old corvette style grille and your stock issue big 5-bar patterned wheels on this chopped thing, whose size and interior resembles more so a rabid minivan than muscle car.

When I see stuff like this on the drawing board — take the Saturn Sky for example, which originally looked more like a Mazda Miata than the production roaster does today — well I can’t really give the project much more than a glimmer of hope (even though it’s a lame attempt to copy someone else). In a nutshell, the canned the cute car in favor of rebadging a few Vauxhalls and calling them new Saturns. What, never heard of Vauxhall? It’s a Euro arm of GM now, they bought them up too..

Well back to Chevy, you know, if you want a MINI clubman, just get a MINI clubman — sure they have BMW electronics goofiness and an engine that you can’t do much to, but they’re only $26k and worth every penny. They are made so well you can’t really get more umph horsepower out of them. Don’t get some knock-off car made by Chevy. If GM was a spoiled child, they deserve a good spanking.

Today, I see cars trying to copy each other all the time, so much so that everything looks like a Ford Taurus, Honda Civic, or Toyota Camry today. Alright, except for the luxury imports coming from Japan and Korea (or China for that matter).. they all try to resemble some slightly forgotten BMW or ‘Benz. Oh, is that a 3-series? No, it’s a Lexus (aka Toyota or Scion) It’s funny that brands will do splits in American to try and re-invent themselves. Same with Nissan/Infinity (earlier, they were called Datsun, since Nissan thought the real name sounded too Japanese and would scare off buyers, ahem..) that’s just an example, if you go look at automaker sites you may be surprised (if you didn’t already know who owns who today.. there’s a reason Euro brands are looking more and more like other American styles.. Case in point, Jaguar and Volvo.)

Anyway, hey again, I got a great idea to bail-out American auto-makers: Force them to make cars that people actually want to drive, and beat the pants off of everyone else’s EPA rating, wouldn’t that rock? Wow, an American car that would hold itself together, well-built with quality parts to closer tolerances, and got 50, 60, or more MPG? I’d stand in line to buy one!

I doubt that will happen if we keep spoon feeding them our tax dollars so they can continue making disposable vehicles. Factory 2-year warranty? That doesn’t say much for reliability does it. 100,000 mile powertrain warranty. Great, how often do you hear people say “wow, I had to go to the dealership to service, yeah, just standard oil-change and powertrain swap out” — that’s like giving you a warranty on the body style of the car. As long as you don’t wreck it or modify it, we guarantee it will stay the same shape for 10 years. Maybe if they actually spent some time designing cars people will buy from the start (do I hear plug-in EV? anyone?) and not flying around in personal jet aircraft, they would fare better.

On that note, while Toyota’s sales of the Prius hybrid and Honda’s Civic hybrid are making record numbers, and smaller cars like the smart and MINI are selling like hotcakes, the American automakers come up with Flexfuel (i.e., you can run a car on gas, or ethanol gas, wow, inventive..) and what is this E85 anyway?

This is what I think.. not good to force farmers to grow corn so factories can process it into fuel at an environmental cost greater than the benefit of using it.. bad idea! No wonder we have a shortage of hops (used for flavoring beer much like different grapes flavor wine) and other stuff that people were farming before this silly Ethanol idea took root.

I spoke to my friend who came back from Hawaii recently, as he drove down the roads where miles of sugarcane once were, there is now corn. When he asks the farmers why, they reply that the government is subsidizing corn (but not sugar cane, in other words) — so to survive they are basically playing into the hands of fuel makers and grow corn, result? Sugar cane shortage in America. Same with wheat farmers, rice, barley, the list goes on. American food makers, guess where you get your store of crops? China. Other countries. There’s something to be said about eating a fresh meal with a salad grown from your backyard and meat from a local farm, just tastes better than stuff that’s been packaged and container shipped on a 21 day voyage across the ocean. And of course, there’s no American eye of concern for quality or safety in the mass farms of Asia and South America, it’s about the bottom line and expense. It’s cheaper for people to get overseas production and ship it here than it would be to do it here, because our government doesn’t support local business or farming that way anymore.

Back to cars though, how about those American made pseudo-Hybrids that get a few MPG better than their all-petrol equivalent and sold for $10k more? That’s rather silly. What a bleep! joke, no wonder nobody is buying them! I like to think that we are more intelligent than that, hello!? Automakers? Guess who are the top automakers with good jobs is in America? Toyota and BMW. Surprised? Maybe save that for later.

So sorry.. I said I would stop this rant, but like George Bush’s last ditch efforts to harm the environment (and kill measures to protect nature, owch that hurts!), “they” (and they know who they are) keep giving me more examples of stupidity and greed.

Ok, really now… I promise to stop complaining if they stop giving me reasons to. Really. But I won’t hold my breath.

We went to the SF International Auto show, as we do every year.. I’ve heard this year it’s really boring because none of our Detroit automakers can come up with anything inventive or exciting lately. ORLY!? That’s a real shame. Nissan brings us a new Z, there’s the Brabus smart fortwo, the JCW MINI clubman, the BlueTec Mercedes, new VW diesels, Audi, Porsche, gosh even Maserati has new models.

Sure, some of it is so last year and we have been reading about it for longer, but it’s nice to see some of these inventive cars actually reach production where we can buy them and drive them home. A number of companies aren’t attending the Detroit show in 2009, not because they haven’t come up with new stuff, but because Detroit is no longer the center of automotive Nirvana.

Who’s going to Tokyo? Frankfurt (those are other auto shows, for uh, non car fanatics)? Ah, thought so..

I know this was a random post and veers off topic, but there ya go. American automakers please take notice and pull yourself back up into the limelight, our country is counting on you. The world needs the innovation you once had.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *