ಗುರುವಾರ, ಜೂನ್ 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.

Mazda Demio available for sale in Japan

mazda demio

Mazda announced that the sales of the Mazda Demio, Mazda2 have begun in Japan. The new Mazda2 is the company’s supermini and the target sales for its home market is 6,000 units per month.

ಸೋಮವಾರ, ಜೂನ್ 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.

ಶುಕ್ರವಾರ, ಜೂನ್ 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.

2012 BMW M5 Launched

2012 BMW M5

A 553-horsepower, 4.4-liter Twin-Power Turbo V8 shared with the X5 M and X6 M behemoths, plus the small matter of 500 pound-feet of torque between 1,500 and 5,750 rpm. Redline is now right around 7,200 rpm instead of the discontinued E60 M5's V10 that smacked us around at 8,250.

Source: http://www.autoblog.com/

ಬುಧವಾರ, ಜೂನ್ 22, 2011

ಭಾನುವಾರ, ಜೂನ್ 19, 2011

Lexus launches 2011 LS 460 Touring Edition


Lexus has offered its 2011 LS 460 Touring Edition with a new 19-inch wheels and a sportier body kit. The Touring Edition will be available for sale with a sticker price of $73,000 before destination charges.

Lexus is also adding a special mica paint job to the limited-production sedan which also features sport seats, matte-finish wood paneling and black leather upholstery with saddle leather accents.

ಬುಧವಾರ, ಜೂನ್ 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.

ಮಂಗಳವಾರ, ಜೂನ್ 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.

ಗುರುವಾರ, ಜೂನ್ 9, 2011

Study of 2015 Toyota Prius Design

2015 Toyota Prius

Industrial designer Eric Leong has produced an interesting take on the third-generation Toyota Prius.

By acknowledging that wind resistance is one of the key factors in improving vehicle economy, Leong’s Prius III hybrid is extremely slippery.

Maserati getting twin-turbo Pentastar V6

Maserati Gran Turismo MC Stradale

If you aren't happy with a Ferrari-sourced 4.7-liter V8 under the hood of your Maserati, we'd keep that sentiment to yourself, less your brand be saddled with a somewhat less inspired power plant in the near future. According to Inside Line, shadowy sources at the Italian automaker claim that in the near future, a twin-turbocharged version of the 3.0-liter, twin-turbocharged Pentastar V6 (you know, from Chrysler) may replace the thirsty eight-pots.

Source: autoblog

ಬುಧವಾರ, ಜೂನ್ 8, 2011

Lotus to end production of NA-spec Elise/Exige in August

2011 lotus elise

Lotus has decided to stop production of the North American-spec Elise and Exige models from August. The lightweight terror pushed the automaker back on the map in the States in 2004, but a federal exemption for a lack of "smart" airbags on the sports cars is about to run out.

The production for UK and the rest of Europe will continue with the new 1.6-liter four pot until the next Elise arrives in 2015. We can expect at least one or two more market-specific versions to roll out of Hethel before the taps are officially turned off.

ಮಂಗಳವಾರ, ಜೂನ್ 7, 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.

ಸೋಮವಾರ, ಜೂನ್ 6, 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).   

ಭಾನುವಾರ, ಜೂನ್ 5, 2011

2012 BMW 1 Series - Specifications and details

2012 BMW 1 Series

For the debut of the 2012 BMW 1 series, BMW chose to show the five-door hatchback model, but the range will eventually grow to include a three-door hatchback followed by the coupe, cabriolet and if the grapevine holds true, a longer and more spacious Gran Turismo version in the likes of the 3-Series GT we recently showed you in these spy shots.

Further down the line, the Bavarian automaker’s freshly launched 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine with around 240-horses will most likely make it in the 128i replacing the current 130i that comes with a 3.0-liter straight six pushing out 258HP. BMW has not yet said if it will offer a straight-six engine on the new 1-Series.

Source: carscoop

Ford Pinto convoy celebrates 40th birthday

The owners of the Ford Pinto are taking to the roads in celebration of the car's 40th birthday. They are driving from Denver to the Carlisle Ford Nationals in Pennsylvania this week, a journey of approximately 1,600 miles.

Norman and Louise Bagi lead the caravan with their 1976 Pinto Runabout and 1977 Pinto coupe, respectively.

ಶುಕ್ರವಾರ, ಜೂನ್ 3, 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.