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Friday, December 03, 2004

GPS in your Car

The Car Pundit writes of GPS systems put into cars, and the potential risk that entails. If the government knew where you were driving at any time of the day, a great aspect of modern human freedom would be destroyed. Though the Car Pundit and I are quite different politically, I think most sensible people can see that GPS is not a good thing. And it's not a good thing for car companies either, especially ones that sell sports cars. If the government knows when you're speeding, you're done for. How many sports car drivers take their cars to the track regularly?

Basically I think a little bit of illegality in life, goes a long way to mental health. We all like to think that we can break laws occasionally that don't hurt anyone, like going 10 miles per hour faster than the posted limit, not coming to a complete stop at a stop sign, etc.

Believe it or not, many companies require their workers to have GPS in their cars. Companies that have workers who visit homes and do repairs, like plumbers and HVAC workers, many times have GPS on trucks to track employees and make sure they're not messing around. Arguably they have the right to do that, since the employee is driving company property, on company time, but do we all as citizens "work" for the government?

I don't think America, or any country for that matter, is "free". But it's the veneer of freedom that counts, and prevents anger and unhappiness. And basically the freedom to drive anywhere we want, for as long as we want, is part of that. Car companies definitely agree; when was the last time you saw a car commercial that didn't have the vehicle speeding?

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Well, maybe it won't be so bad

Rob McMillin who writes 6-4-2, a Dodger/Angels baseball blog that I go to daily, is also aware of Peak Oil, but is optimistic. Hence the title of his new blog Peak Oil Optimist. I'm cautiously optimistic myself, but the vast majority of people who write on Peak Oil are not, so there's little doubt in my mind that Rob will be despised by most of them. But we have to have hope otherwise, what's the point of going on?

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Thursday, December 02, 2004

Market Share Woes

It's a monthly occurrence, and it's been going on for at least thirty years: the article detailing the Big 3's market share slide.

One thing that seems to unnoticed in the article is the slide in market share of a Japanese brand. That brand is Honda. Why the slide? Quite simply they didn't come out with any new products in 2004. They just kept on going with the momentum of the new Accord, and the nearly over in product cycle Civic. Acura is too small of a brand to make much headway, and Honda has a negligible truck lineup, unlike Nissan and Toyota.

The lesson here is, not only do you need products that people like, you need to have them come out year in and year out. Ford and GM, are notorious for letting product lines linger, as reminders of last decade's aesthetics. Honda messed up a tad too, by not having some big product come out for 2004.

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Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Preliminary List of Debuts at the LA Autoshow

Autoblog has a list, at least an initial glance, at some of the debuts at the LA Autoshow. I will of course be there. The LA Autoshow has decided to move from January to November, which will probably make it twice as important as it is now. Unfortunately, the move comes too late to affect 2005's show, which will happen in January. So the debut list won't be that great. But here's my opinion on some of the vehicles being shown:

Pontiac Torrent--Not interested. Gussied up version of a bland Chevrolet SUV, to "fill out" Pontiac's lineup and basically replace the Aztek. Uncool.

Chevrolet HHR--This is Chevrolet's take on the PT Cruiser. Just because they're copying them doesn't mean they can't do better; witness the Camaro of the 1960s, verses the Mustang. Somewhat interested.

2005 Volkswagen Jetta--The all new redesigned Jetta. I've seen some photos, and it looks good. I'll be interested to see how the interior looks, if I'll be allowed close enough. Hopefully more masculine than the current Jetta. Somewhat interested.

Audi A3--Somewhat interested. Affordable, and hopefully not girly.

Porsche Boxster--Also redesigned. They've basically shown us all of it already, but not shown us it in person. The interior is an improvement over the previous Boxster, but the exterior looks identical. I know, I know, Porsche's aren't supposed to be dramatically different, but Joe Schmo won't know that. Make some more exterior changes that are daring. I expect sales to not be as exciting as predicted.

Spyker, and Venturi--Heard of Spyker, a Dutch rich man's toy, not very interesting. Venturi is a new one, but an electric sports car. Now that sounds interesting...

See you at the show.

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Preliminary List of Debuts at the LA Autoshow

Autoblog has a list, at least an initial glance, at some of the debuts at the LA Autoshow. I will of course be there. The LA Autoshow has decided to move from January to November, which will probably make it twice as important as it is now. Unfortunately, the move comes too late to affect 2005's show, which will happen in January. So the debut list won't be that great. But here's my opinion on some of the vehicles being shown:

Pontiac Torrent--Not interested. Gussied up version of a bland Chevrolet SUV, to "fill out" Pontiac's lineup and basically replace the Aztek. Uncool.

Chevrolet HHR--This is Chevrolet's take on the PT Cruiser. Just because they're copying them doesn't mean they can't do better; witness the Camaro of the 1960s, verses the Mustang. Somewhat interested.

2005 Volkswagen Jetta--The all new redesigned Jetta. I've seen some photos, and it looks good. I'll be interested to see how the interior looks, if I'll be allowed close enough. Hopefully more masculine than the current Jetta. Somewhat interested.

Audi A3--Somewhat interested. Affordable, and hopefully not girly.

Porsche Boxster--Also redesigned. They've basically shown us all of it already, but not shown us it in person. The interior is an improvement over the previous Boxster, but the exterior looks identical. I know, I know, Porsche's aren't supposed to be dramatically different, but Joe Schmo won't know that. Make some more exterior changes that are daring. I expect sales to not be as exciting as predicted.

Spyker, and Venturi--Heard of Spyker, a Dutch rich man's toy, not very interesting. Venturi is a new one, but an electric sports car. Now that sounds interesting...

See you at the show.

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Remember Me?

Remember me? I sure do. Even though MG was basically out of this country by my birth, the idea of an affordable European sports car has always intrigued me. During my lifetime, the past 25 years, I've watched European cars become quirky vehicles for eccentrics, to luxury laden extremely expensive vehicles. Anyone who's compared a BMW 2002, with a BMW M5 will see what I mean. The same is basically true of Volvo, Audi, and to some extent Maserati and Ferarri (remember the Dino?). I'm not saying this is a bad thing, certainly the European manufacturers have secured the top market share quite well, but they are starting to realize that middle class vehicles are cool too. Witness the Mini, and the upcoming Smart car, and 1 series.

Which brings me to MG. MG is now MG Rover, makers of the famous MG brand, and the not so famous Rover brand here in the US. I see this company sort of as a British Ford, or Chrysler. British middle class cars. Unfortunately they've been dying these last few years, bought by BMW, and now independent and about to cooperate with a Chinese manufacturer. According to Autoweek, MG and Rover might return to the US. Now that would be cool, barring the US dollar sinking even lower in relation to the pound. I think with the upcoming fuel crises people are going to flock to affordable sports cars, rather than gas guzzlers like the Corvette and Z4, so MG could stand to do well, with their MG TF. A Rover 75 over here wouldn't be too shabby either.

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Sunday, November 28, 2004

Saturn Revamped

The Detroit News has an article on the new plans for Saturn in the next few years. From the GM message boards I peruse, I've heard they plan for Saturn to essentially be Opel US, and I think that is a great idea. VW has dominated the high quality small car market in this country, with its only competition being the Mini. The GM executive they talk to even states that Saturn will have a "global look", which I'm sure means Opel, since Opels are sold all over the globe.

But there's a problem. GM is showing us a picture of the new Saturn Sky, and it looks like the Opel Speedster in Europe. I don't have a problem with the look, which will probably be great, but doesn't GM have another roadster on the market? It's even mentioned in the article, the Pontiac Solstice. And both will have the same price. Huh?

Ford makes a roadster, it's called the Mazda Miata. Since Ford essentially controls Mazda to the extent that it is almost like another division in the company, but since it's another brand, has Ford decided to release a roadster of its own to compete? Of course not. One vehicle was good enough for the market niche.

Does Saturn need a roadster to fill out their lineup? Well, does VW have a roadster, or a convertible for that matter? Nope. And they're doing better than Saturn, or at least their long term survival seems more assured than Saturns, they didn't really make a profit this year.

GM has great ideas within it, but it also has the same stubborn philosophies that worked decades ago, but no longer do now. Back in the 50s and 60s, when there weren't many car brands, people had to choose between different GM models. Now there are a lot more choices, and two different GM models, means half as many sales for the vehicles.

Times change, and GM should change with it.

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