Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Enjoying Flint

I read on message forums, and on other blogs incredible distaste for Jerry Flint, automotive writer at large, but I really think that he's on the right track sometimes. He also relies mostly on his own intellect and a total lack of research to write his columns, much like most blogwriters. The one difference is that he is paid for his work, while the rest of us wish we were paid.

His latest column is just common sense. Make a small car, make it well, and you get buyers. Make a small car, make it crappy, and you are forced to sell a substantial number of to fleet sales. Of course the two automakers used in this example are Toyota and GM. You can imagine which is the former and which is the latter.

I've ranted and raved over how the future of the American auto market is what I'm currently seeing in Britain. The cars are honestly not that much smaller, it's just that there are a lot more small cars. I.e. there are a lot more VW Golfs, and Honda Civics. SUVs are nowhere to be seen (at least in the city). There are a lot more motorcycles and scooters. A minor digression: buy Harley and Honda stock, and hold them for a few years. Well only buy Harley if they can make their bikes more suitable to navigating an urban jungle.

Interiors must be tastefully and conservatively done, but with class. Cars must be fuel efficient. They don't necessarily need to be that reliable. They need to handle well, and they need to look competent. These are very doable things for the Big 3. But they don't do them, or at least not across the board.

I expect Toyota as a marque to decline in the US after it reaches the top, and Scion and Lexus to become the big money. After 1980, the market for large sedans never really recovered, and probably will never recover now with gas an issue.

In the next couple of weeks I should have secured some interviews of Britons working in some aspect of the auto industry here, and I will write them up when I get the chance. In the meantime wish me luck in getting a job here in the auto industry, or for that matter just getting a job.

I'm surprised you haven't seen any SUVs in London. To my eyes - I'm also here in the UK - they seem to be everywhere.
They are certainly here in sufficient numbers for a vocal minority to see them as a menace (including London Mayor Ken Livingstone, who wants to ban them from London's roads); plus they have garnered their own vernacular names: Google for "yank tank", "Chelsea tractor" or "mum truck" and you'll see what I mean.
I shouldn't have been so dramatic. I have seen a few. You are in London? Email me privately, and tell me what your situation is and maybe something of the job market if you can. The nicknames are quite clever, and spot on.
Rick, now that you're in the UK, do me a favor, let me know what you think of two Ford models, the Fusion (UK mini MPV) and Ka.

When I was in Ireland a couple of years ago, saw both on the road, but did not get a chance to really check them out.

Good luck in your search for a job and be careful over there. Glad to see you made it safely.
Living in London I have seen a bunch of Kas, but no Fusions. I read in a Brit magazine that Fusions are driven by suburban folk. The Ka is one of the smallest cars on the road. It is the size of a dirtbike. Or a car on Mr. Toad's Wild Ride. They are popular in London.
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