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The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly

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On: Tue, Dec 1, 2009 at 3:39PM | By: John Welch

The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly

The "small-car" landscape keeps getting bigger and brighter for American buyers;

Hyundai is cleaning up everywhere except Japan;

Chrysler kills the program responsible for their bail-out; this makes my teeth hurt . .

The Good: American small car choices are swelling and the assorted offerings appear to be light-years ahead of the de-contented garbage we are used to. Let's start with some clean-sheet GM designs: the Chevy Cruze and Buick Excelle.

"Clean-sheet" is a bit misleading as both of these models have seen duty elsewhere. The new Buick is yet another rebadged Opel Astra, only this time the old work-horse Astra is actually becoming more desirable. The Chevrolet Cruze is a completely new model, to us 'Murrikens, but it has been sold around the world for the better part of 2009.

The Buick Excelle is being designed and commissioned in China, of course. Most of the Buick Division's recent designs have been influenced by Chinese designers in one way or another, a function of GM's recognition of the love the Chinese harbor for the Buick brand. The car will be offered as a sedan in the US and will slot in underneath the new Buick Regal (Thin Audi A3 and A4, only these are Buicks, not Audis). The car has an attractive exterior. The accent lines flowing toward the rear of the hatchback give away its Astra roots pretty easily, but the sedan should break the Astra mold before we get our hands on it. Other design cues include snappy, Insignia-esque headlights, a turbocharged four putting out 181bhp, and a fashionable interior based on the Cruze's digs.

The Cruze, essentially the small-car Chevrolet could have and should have released 'round about 2002, is a very enticing package. Some of the Cruze's kewler nuances may seem strange to American buyers. The base engine is a turbo, albeit a 1.4 liter turbo. Begging for Aftermarket-Overboosting?! I think so . . . All transmissions, auto and manual will be six speeds (Suck on that Honda!) and the Cruze's American release has been delayed several times so that the General can assure production quality of the highest order right from the get-go. This may seem like a blunder, but J.D. Power may also reward GM for producing a new car with few quality issues. The interior is smartly designed (I have yet to actually sample the materials so the jury is still out in that department) and the Cruze should attain 40 miles per gallon.

Other new small cars to reach us in the next year have been covered before, but are worth mentioning again. Both equipped with 1.4 liter fours, the Ford Fiesta and Fiat 500 will provide stiff competition for the Cruze. The 500 has been on sale for years now and should change little for US consumption. The Abarth version is at the top of my list, and the exotic draw of any Italian car helps keep me excited. The Fiesta is also Euro-exotic, but recent news stories are leading me to believe that it will be severely mangled for the North American market. Shots of the Canadian version are available online, and they're not pretty. Attractive fog lamps and body colored/black grille openings have been replaced with ugly bumpers and the ubiquitous fake-chrome. Barf. I hope Ford rethinks these terrible ideas and delivers on their promise of a proper Euro-mini.

The Bad: Hyundai has enjoyed monumental success over the course of the last decade. In Europe, America and Korea the automaker is absolutely mopping the floor with its competition. Howabout their fortunes in other Asian markets however? Uhm, that aspect of Hyundai's global domination isn't going so well.

In fact, after just eight years in the Japanese market, Hyundai is pulling out of that country altogether. On Dec. 1 (today!) Hyundai will notify its 46 dealers in Japan about its intention to halt sales here, company spokesman Oles Gadacz said. “If you're not a Gucci or a BMW, there are very few who prosper there,” Gadacz said. “Mass-market players have it very tough.”

Since entering the Japanese market in 2001, Hyundai has moved only 15,095 vehicles. Volkswagen AG, Japan's largest importer, has off-loaded 61,996 cars in 2008 alone. Hyundai's Japanese demise has been imminent; not only has the Japanese car market suffered decline for years, there is a prevailing mistrust of Korean products in the country.

Hyundai plans to continue selling commercial vehicles in Japan, but the Rising Sun is setting on the pride of Seoul.

The Ugly: Last week I suffered what can be effectively labeled the worst pain I've ever experienced in my life. The second-to-last molar on the right side of my maw decided that it had had enough of being a tooth and thus made itself explode in a torrent of puss, blood, and sheer misery. It's so nasty; I can literally, with my tongue, push on the gums covering a wisdom tooth, which will drain all of the pus from the wisdom tooth down into a sack under my gum line, which will inflate like a balloon. It's really very uncomfortable.

This happened Thanksgiving evening, a full five days ago. Finding a dentist who will accept me and take the risk of billing me has been less than easy. One rotten tooth removed, and I'm all better.

Unfortunately, I'm white, I have no children and I'm not a veteran. I have no education to speak of and therefore cannot nail down employment that compensates me enough to be able to afford a private insurance plan. A public option would be nice. This public option has to be paid for by someone however, and, currently, all of our (the entire US) public funds are tied up in bailouts. Bailouts to companies like Chrysler, a useless, smoldering infection we have all come to hate.

Recently, Chrysler announced that it would be abandoning all of the work it has done on Tesla copies. A major excuse used by Nardelli for securing a federal bailout, the Italian overlords have decided that electric vehicles manufactured by Chrysler will not be profitable in any way, and therefore have axed the entire project. You know what this sounds like to me? Sounds just like a foreigner running AIG who decided his executives (mostly foreigners themselves) deserved the several million dollar bonuses they were due to receive right before they eviscerated the American financial system. AIG got their bonuses, Fiat will sell its cars through an established Chrysler dealership network, and my mouth will continue to fester until the poison created by this abscess kills me.

Hey hey, I'm a good American! I still pay my taxes! Even though the amount I'm taxed in a month might cover the oral surgery I need, I suppose I would rather help pay for Robert Benmosche's "vacations" and Sergio Marchionne's custom 'Gators.

I'll be mailing my lower mandible to Tom Nardelli as soon as it decides to rot off. Thanks guys, you eff everything up and we suffer for it! Gawd Bless Murricuh!

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