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Categories: Miscellaneous

The Great Mini-Van Wars Of Aught Ten

On: Mon, Jun 21, 2010 at 4:58PM | By: John Welch


The Great Mini-Van Wars Of Aught Ten test 1-1

Over the decades there has been many a bloody struggle for supremacy over one segment of the car industry or another. In the late sixties, as we have all been told, Ford and Chevy were at each other’s throats over these "muscle car" thingees. Then we had the war to make the worst car possible. That one lasted through three decades, from '72 until '98 or so. The arms race for the dual-clutch 8-speed transmission is a current hot bed of automaker blood thirst. Bigger wheels, more rows of seating, fancier badges, higher fuel economy, the most towing power, the least drag coefficient. Many things can set a war off, and once the fuse is lit, almost nothing can stop it. Sheesh, the last Mini-Van War went for years; beginning in 1984 with the release of the first Chrysler Mini-Vans. This conflict involved almost every major automaker, and ended only when the SUV swooped in and extinguished all use anyone had for Mini-Vans in general.

Here we are again, on the battlefield of the most recent Auto-Conflict, the war to produce the sweetest Mini-Van. The players are fewer this time around; not because Mini-Vans aren't made by more companies, but because those vans are all garbage afterthoughts thrown together for the sole purpose of filling a hole in a line-up. The newest Chryslers have interesting seating, but otherwise are total crap. Does Ford make the Windstar anymore? How about GM and the awful Venture/Transpost? The Ford Flex and Chevy Traverse/GMC Acadia/ Buick Enclave have taken the place of those less-than-celebrated bread boxes. The Hyundai Entourage and Kia Sedona are outdated. The VW Routan? Give me a break.

There are more vehicles that could be considered Mini-Vans but really aren't. Box-mobiles like the Scion xB and Kia Soul come to mind. Along with the Kia Rondo and Mazda 5, these vehicles are just to small to be considered "vans", even if they fit the "mini" part nicely. The Ford TransitConnect is all work and no DVD screens, and the Mercedes R-Class is way out of this price league.

That leaves us with the major participants in this particular marketing/motor/innovative seating scuffle, Honda, Toyota and soon to be Nissan. We have covered the new Toyota Sienna in this blog before, finding it's styling to be fresh and its options plentiful. Read that report here. The Nissan Quest is several months away from its introduction, but from the looks of its teaser photos it may be stimulating in a "FordFlexGiantBox" sort of way. Drew hates the grill though, and I don't find the "yards of chrome" treatment to be all that appealing. We will reserve judgment until the vehicle is actually released.

. . . Bringing us to the perennial Mini Van favorite, the Honda Odyssey. In recent years the Honda has led the pack in horsepower, handling and overall people-moving ability. The problem has always been the existence of the SUV and the American ego. Fortunately for the Odyssey, Americans are also gullible, and sometimes we will use that gullibility to warp the sensibility of our ego's. No longer is it gay to be seen in a Mini-Van, mostly because it is pure evil to be seen in a full size SUV. Considering the space limitations of cross-over’s, and the fact that most of them are no more useful than a Mini-Van off road, SUV customers who can no longer stomach the fuel bill but still need space for ply-wood and kiddies are left with few options that don't sound like "Gini-Tan". Or "Winnie-Can". Or "Vinnie-Span".

Being the newest offering for the Mini-Van fracas, the Honda Odyssey has received several weird and wonderful design updates that we need to take a closer look at . . .


UPDATE! Proposed Issa Bill Would Prohibit GM and Chrysler from Lobbying

On: Fri, Jun 18, 2010 at 11:36AM | By: Sherry Christiansen


UPDATE! Proposed Issa Bill Would Prohibit GM and Chrysler from Lobbying test 1-1

Representative Darrell Issa, the top Republican on the Government Reform Committee, plans to initiate a proposal that would prohibit General Motors and Chrysler Corporation (as well as any other bailout company, such as Ally Financial and AIG) from being able to lobby as long as they are owned by the government. In other words, until the bailout funds are completely paid back to the tax payers.

The new amendment, if approved, would broaden the current limitations on lobbying by government-controlled institutions, such as Fanny Mae and Freddie Mac, federally funded mortgage conglomerates. This amendment would prohibit lobbying for any corporation of which the federal government owns five percent or more.

A Fannie Mae spokesperson reported that the company was banned from lobbying in 2008 after the corporation was placed in "federal conservatorship." 

According to Kurt Bardella, press secretary  to ranking member Darrell Issa, “Any company that has borrowed taxpayer dollars should not be allowed to hire a lobbyist until the taxpayers have been repaid in full. There is no justification for allowing a company subsidized by taxpayer dollars to hire a lobbyist so they can try to influence the very government that owns the company.”

UPDATE: The Issa Bill was squashed this morning by the financial services conference committee. In a 9-13 vote the bill was put to rest, re-opening Lobby-Season for tax-payer owned entities. Woot?


Gulf Oil Disaster; Deja Vu All Over Again

On: Thu, Jun 17, 2010 at 3:39PM | By: Clay Ritchings


Gulf Oil Clean-up test 2

It amazes me that in today’s day and age, with all the technology that we possess, we can’t cap the well to stem the onslaught of crude from poisoning the gulf waters. It all sounds pretty easy to us armchair well drillers—just screw the cap on and call it a day. But, in reality, it is not that easy; in fact, the company responsible for this disaster should be well aware of just how hard the task is because they had to deal with the same scenario in 1979. Only back then the company was called Sedco, before it became Transocean, the world’s largest offshore drilling contractor.

The Ixtoc drilling platform exploded in the Gulf of Mexico on June 13th, 1979 spewing 30,000 barrels of oil into the water every day because of a malfunctioning blow-out preventer. Sedco used planes to drop chemical dispersants and utilized “containment teams” to deploy long booms and “oil skimming vessels” to help control the spill, all with little success. Concerns about underwater plumes of oil and the spill reaching Florida’s beaches were growing every day. Does any of this sound familiar?


Toyota Bringing 2,000 Jobs To Mississippi

On: Thu, Jun 17, 2010 at 3:08PM | By: John Welch


Toyota Bringing 2,000 Jobs To Mississippi test 1-1

An area hard-hit by natural disaster over the last several year, the state of Mississippi could use some good news. How does "job growth" sound?

Needing to boost its public image and save money, Toyota will resume construction on a dormant production facility it began building in 2007. The plant was nearly completed, but Toyota became distracted in 2008, and has not actively worked on the building since.

“We first needed to fully utilize our existing facilities as the economy slowed,” Yoshimi Inaba, president of Toyota Motor North America, said in a statement today. Inaba went on to say that the automaker would take on 2,000 employees, "soon."


 

Never Change Your Vehicle's Oil Again?

On: Wed, Jun 16, 2010 at 3:28PM | By: Sherry Christiansen


Never Change Your Vehicle's Oil Again? test 1-1

What if a product existed that would enable motorists to never have to change their car’s oil again? The dutiful task that every car owner knows he/she has to perform every 3,000 miles. Imagine the amount of time, money, and resources that could be saved!

Believe it or not, such a product does exist, and not only does it prevent your car from needing its oil changed, it also increases fuel economy. The product is called an “Oil Refiner” and it has been around since 1977. For decades the specialized oil filter was used mostly on huge commercial ships, but it can now be utilized in cars, trucks, vans—literally just about any type of combustion engine that uses oil.


Honda Motor Co. Experiences Labor Strikes in China

On: Wed, Jun 16, 2010 at 1:37PM | By: Sherry Christiansen


Honda Motor Co.  Experiences Labor Strikes in China  test 1-1

A recent strike at a Honda Motor parts factory in China could result in more demands across China's vast manufacturing belt as workers seek a higher wages in order to meet the country's rising cost of living expenses.

Approximately 1500 workers walked off the job this week at the Honda Lock plant, a major supplier of locks for Honda’s auto manufacturing operations in China. The face-off occurred without any hostility, compared to last week when hundreds congregated outside the front gates of the factory and riot police were called in to keep workers from leaving.


Ed Montgomery Steps Down From His Position at the White House

On: Wed, Jun 16, 2010 at 9:25AM | By: Sherry Christiansen


Ed Montgomery Steps Down From His Position at the White House test 1-1

President Obama formally gave his farewell today to Ed Montgomery, the White House aide in charge of channeling aid to towns that were hit hardest by the effects the recession had on the auto industry.

Edward B. Montgomery, an American economist, academic, and politician, and former member of the Presidential Task Force on the Auto Industry (serving as Director of Recovery for Auto Communities and Workers in the Obama administration), has made a decision to take a position as Dean of Public Policy Institute at Georgetown University in Washington D.C.


How the Oil Spill Has Impacted Auto Buyers

On: Fri, Jun 11, 2010 at 3:34PM | By: Sherry Christiansen


How the Oil Spill Has Impacted Auto Buyers test 1-1

The jury may be out for now as to whether the tragic Gulf of Mexico oil spill will have a lasting effect on consumer’s outlook toward oil consumption. For now, the effects of the catastrophic spill are certainly forcing awareness of the issue of oil dependence on all of us.

So how are consumers responding?  A poll recently completed by MSNBC asked 1,200 visitors to their website what their reaction is to the Gulf oil spill, and 57% of those who responded stated that they are actively working to try to rely on less oil. 43% of those who answered the poll stated that it is not feasible to reduce their personal oil consumption.

According to the MSNBC poll, consumer response varied quite a bit, including statements such as “I will never own another gasoline-burning vehicle. I will walk, take public transportation, and ride a bike. If I need to go a long way and haul my property, I will use a horse and wagon or a fully electric car,” Other comments ran the full gamut, comments such as “How else am I supposed to get to work? I consume what I consume due to necessity…There are simply no alternatives that are economically viable at this time. The Chevy Volt would be a great alternative if it were not so expensive.”


24 Heures Du Mans; The 'Shopper Preview - GT

On: Fri, Jun 11, 2010 at 11:38AM | By: John Welch


24 Heures Du Mans; The 'Shopper Preview - GT test 1-1

Zany mix-ups are always good for a laugh. Sometime around 2007, the entire world stopped caring about GT1 cars. Saleen, Maserati, even Aston Martin quit backing factory teams, and the mighty Corvette C6.R's were left to race each other. This whole "no competition" thing bored the hell out of CorvetteRacing, and they did what any self-respecting group of total-badasses would do: went andfound competition. With the American squad changing classes to GT2, that left no teams building or campaigning GT1 cars. It had become too expensive, too fast, too antiquated. GT1 was no longer relatable by 2009, the underbody aero-dynamics and carbon brakes just too costly for privateer teams. What to do, what to do . . .

Along came French driver Stephan Ratel, with is slicky-boy hair and his radical plans for molding GT1 into a relevant, global racing series. We will get further into the FIA GT1 World Championship and it's spectacular website later; all we need to know at the moment is that Ratel's plan would essentially create bigger GT2 cars. The under floor diffusers and carbon brakes would be shelved (just like a GT2 car,) and weight added to each car. Some of these new GT1 machines are specially built based on the rules, the Nissan GT-R's for instance, and some competitors are 'grandfathered' in. Start with a GT1 C6.R, take away all of it's aero-tricks, throw a sandbag or two in the trunk, and voila- new GT1 car. It could be argued that "New GT1 Car" stands for "Porky GT2 Car" and that the two classes being so closely matched should add up to some freaking amazing racing. It could also lead to some horrifying wrecks, as there are 8 cars entered in GT1 and an unprecedented 17 entries in GT2. Jeebus, that’s a lotta GT cars! Traveling at the same speeds! For 24 hours! 

We've got hard numbers inside the post. Qualifying times for all 26 GT entries, and possibly an image or two . . .


Buying a Used car Online; Don't Get Munsoned

On: Thu, Jun 10, 2010 at 4:35PM | By: Clay Ritchings


Roy Munson test 2

If you are in the market for a car or truck, there are sites, like AutoShopper.com, where you can put in your zip code and start looking through local seller offerings. The internet has given us all the ability to become more educated on pricing, quality, and reliability before we ever set foot on any car lot. All this convenience comes with a price: safety!

While the vast majority of online car deals go through without a problem, a number of scams have specifically targeted internet auto buyers. Many of the scam artists work their deception from Eastern-bloc countries or even African countries, such as Nigeria. These criminals pursue their victims with special dedication, operating with the belief that rich Americans deserve to be Munsoned. In this post I will cover a few common sense guidelines to help protect you.


UPDATE: "Chevy" Brand Name Gets the Boot? GM Says It's OKTo Say Chevy

On: Thu, Jun 10, 2010 at 4:34PM | By: Sherry Christiansen


UPDATE: <strike>"Chevy" Brand Name Gets the Boot?</strike> GM Says It's OKTo Say Chevy test 1-1

According to the New York Times, GM has ordered that Chevrolet can no longer be referred to as “Chevy” by any of its employees, as part of a new company marketing plan to present more of a consistent branding of the company’s name to its customers.

GM sent out a memo to Detroit this week stating: "We'd ask that whether you're talking to a dealer, reviewing dealer advertising, or speaking with friends and family, that you communicate our brand as Chevrolet moving forward.”  The memo was signed by Jim Campbell, the GM division’s vice president of marketing and vice president of Chevrolet sales and service, Alan Batey.

“When you look at the most recognized brands throughout the world, such as Coke or Apple for instance, one of the things they all focus on is the consistency of their branding. Why is this consistency so important? The more consistent a brand becomes the more prominent and recognizable it is with the consumer.” The statement disregards the fact that “Coke” is a nickname for Coca Cola, or that many products made by Apple have their own niche labels such as iPhones—many consumers are not even aware that iPhones are made by Apple. GM will be hard pressed to find a patron who doesn’t realize that Chevy vehicles are made by Chevrolet—or GM, for that matter.