Category Archives: New Automobiles

Flying Cars Are Actually Here!

You’ve no doubt seen The Jetsons, or at least heard of them, which means you already know the future promises us robot maids, life in space and flying cars to get us around.

What you might not know is that although robot maids and life in space are not quite available for everyone, flying cars certainly are.

I can name two fully functioning, available-for-sale-right-now flying cars just off the top of my head: The Terrafugia Transition and the Maverick. Each has a decidedly different design, but is a tried and true roadworthy aircraft. That means you can cruise down the highway at 55mph and/or take to the skies. Each of these vehicles has a unique method for getting to and from the skies.

The Maverick is akin to an off-road vehicle that uses a type of sailboat mast and an ultralight wing to get aloft. It has been thoroughly tested and buyers have been flying them around the United States.

The Terrafugia uses something more like a fixed-wing (make that foldable wing design) which means the vehicle folds up its wings when it goes on the road and unfolds them when it’s ready for flight.

Regardless of which vehicle you choose you are going to be shelling out close to $100,000 to get on the road and in the air, but the fact remains that flying cars do indeed exist. In fact, although the Maverick and Terrafugia are the two most readily available flying cars, more are coming. Sooner than you think.

Tesla Outsells BMW, Mecerdes and Audi

When it comes to the top selling luxury automobiles don’t think Mercedes-Benz, Audi or BMW. In fact, don’t think gasoline powered or even hybrid powered automobiles at all. Think electric. Fully electric. Think Tesla.

That’s correct. The Tesla Model S outsold all three of those brands during the first quarter of 2013. This represents similarly priced models, of course. Seeing as how Tesla Motors essentially only has two automobiles for consumers to choose from while the others have dozens, there is something to be said for the fact the other brands have more than two automobiles to produce and market.

However, the fact that Tesla sold more than 4,000 automobiles, their $90,000 Model S no less, during the first quarter alone, bodes well for them and for the electric vehicle industry.
On and let’s not forget the recent review by Consumer Reports which gave the Tesla Model S a score of 99 out of 100.

Despite the naysayers who said a $90,000 luxury electric automobile would never sell, Tesla Motor Company is making it happen. It helps that they are marketing the car direct and investing heavily not only in their automobiles but also in the infrastructure needed to keep their cars charged (or at least easier to charge). Tesla has come a long way in the past year alone, and their company forecast looks better than ever. Not only that, but based on these first quarter sales the year ahead is likely going to be the best one so far for Tesla.

Feds Mandate ‘Noisy’ Electric Cars

Electric cars are known for being energy efficient, small and quiet. It’s the last part that has some public activists crying foul and the federal government stepping in to make these cars a little less quiet.

The problem is that these quiet electric cars produce no warning noise for pedestrians-especially blind or vision impaired pedestrians-who might not realize they are close and could potentially step in front of them.

Advocates for the blind have been pushing the federal government to do something about these hazardous situation, and the feds have finally agreed. The new federal government mandate will force electric car manufacturers to install a special noise production device which will alert everyone the vehicle is coming, until it reaches 17mph. What is so far unclear is what sort of “noise” will be considered effective and how much this noise device will cost manufacturers and ultimately the consumers.

There is also something to be said for the fact that the quietness of these cars is a selling point. People like quiet cars. The people who are buying electric cars are the same people who are intentionally avoiding ‘noisy’, gas guzzling cars. They think noisy is uncool and quiet is “in.”

Will noisy electric cars sell as well as the quiet ones did? And given that the quiet ones haven’t been selling as everyone had hoped they would be by now, will this spell doom for electric automakers? Only time will tell.

VW XL1 Gets 261mpg

The new VW XL1 is the car of the future, but how far in the future is anybody’s guess.

For instance, the vehicle is a hybrid that uses a small diesel motor to supply power for an electric generator to keep the battery charged. It also has a carbon fiber so it weighs about half as much as the average American sedan.

Like most highly fuel efficient vehicles the XL1 only seats two, so it’s not exactly a family car. And diesel fuel has not been popular among US new car buyers since the diesel fuel debacle on the 1980’s when diesel vehicles were clunky, noisy and belched a lot of black smoke.

Also, to save weight, only a cut-out in the window rolls down, not the entire thing, and perhaps worst of all, the vehicle has a top speed of just 99pmh.

For American consumers who have become increasingly addicted to power, size and speed, switching to the XL1 would be an extreme sacrifice. Forget about cross-country road trips with the kids–no room. And you might want to consider using an alternate vehicle if you are going to the airport because storage space too will be limited.

But for car buyers looking for the most economical commuter vehicle to get them back and forth to work, the VW XL1 might just fit the bill. With 261mpg you could make 6 trips back and fort to work (with an average of about 40 miles per trip) on just one gallon of diesel. Although diesel fuel is selling for about 50 cents more per gallon than gasoline that’s still a bargain. What remains to be seen, however, is the price tag. So far VW has not said how much they will be asking for the new XL1 nor how many they anticipate selling. Those are important questions for an automaker, but ones that VW seems willing to forgo for the moment in favor of showing off the world’s most fuel efficient vehicle.

Can’t DIY With Most Of Today’s Car

You can change DIY (Do It Yourself) to CDIY, or Can’t Do It Yourself-the motto of most of today’s automobile owners.

Today’s cars are much more complicated than ever before. They don’t require ‘grease monkeys’ as much as they do IT professionals because most of your cars systems are likely computer controlled.

This is hardly new. In fact, computerized systems have existed in vehicles since the 1980’s, but not to the extent they currently do. Lift the hood of a 2013 model vehicle and the chances are you won’t recognize anything you learned about in auto-shop class in high school. Without a special piece of computerized system analysis equipment you won’t be able to know exactly what is wrong with your car, beyond “it won’t start.”

Gone are the days when you could clean a carburetor to keep your vehicle running right. If you start digging around under the hood of your new vehicle, and you don’t know exactly what you are doing, you are liable to do much more harm than good. Your ignition system, environmental control systems, even the vehicle stabilization and control systems are all wired together through a central processing unit, just like your desktop computer only with a lot more horsepower.

Some might say today’s vehicles suffer from an over-reliance on technology to do what yesterday’s cars did just fine with simple mechanical systems. But the truth is that today’s vehicles do a whole lot more-and a whole lot better — as a result of these technologies. You simply can’t have the same sort of driving experience with an older vehicle that you have in a new car. And those computer systems have a lot to do with it.

So before you pop the hood and try to solve your next vehicle issue alone, give serious consideration to taking it to a trained professional. You might save yourself a lot of headaches and a lot of money.

‘Gen 6’ NASCAR Prototype Unstable

The next generation of NASCAR automobile is proving to be troublesome for drivers, after more than a third of the vehicles testing them in Daytona last week wrecked. That’s 12 of 35 cars on the track, smashed, bashed and crashed, sending all but one team back home to rebuild.

Some in the racing industry are already saying the new generation of NASCAR racer is more unstable than any previous version and not worth the effort teams are having to put in to get them ready to race. But not everybody is taking their toys and going home unhappy. Two dozen teams remain unscathed and continue to test in Daytona, learning to handle the new model race car; understanding its wants and needs when it comes to handling and performance.

Despite the wreck in Daytona and the grumbles from some team owners NASCAR has shown no interest in backing away from the Gen 6 vehicle. They say the new cars are safer, higher performing and will provide better racing action for the fans. After all, NASCAR is all about pleasing the fans, not the team owners or the drivers. If the fans don’t show up it doesn’t matter how great the cars are or whether or not they perform as promised.

When it comes to the next generation NASCAR racing vehicle ultimately it will be the fans who decide if it was a good move or not. If the fans liked the days when the drivers had more control of how well (or not) their cars performed on the track, then it seems likely they will be pleased. If the new cars suffer from too much trick and not enough track time for their favorite teams and drivers NASCAR might just have a problem on its hands–and Gen 7 cars will be right around the corner.

Electric Cars Holding Resale Value

Buyers of new electric vehicles have a few things to consider before shelling out a premium for a vehicle which uses mostly untested technology. Among these are reliability, mileage and of course, resale value.

Fortunately, now that these vehicles have been on the road for a few years we have answers to all three of those questions. The mileage numbers are fairly well known by now as are the reliability issues (or lack thereof) for most of these vehicles. And now, based on a new report from Kelley Blue Book, the guide for used car resale sellers and buyers, sheds some light on the issue what your electric vehicle might be worth when it comes time to trade it is.

The good news is that these new electric vehicles are proving to be hardier and more enduring than many had surmised they would be. In fact, for many of these vehicles, the resale value is almost as high as it is for their traditional gasoline powered cousins. That is a further incentive for buyers of electric vehicles who enjoy trading in their cars every couple years or so and driving something new.

At this point buying an electric vehicle means paying a little more money for a little less money and a lot more risk than if you just bought a traditional gasoline powered vehicle. The higher resale value certainly has been affected by the recent reports showing electric cars are not only cheap on gasoline (or use no gasoline) they are also great cars. Consumer Reports magazine said the Chevy Volt was at the top of its owner satisfaction category for the second year in a row.

If you are in the market for an alternative fuel vehicle, whether it is all-electric or a hybrid electric vehicle, you can rest assured that your new vehicle won’t suffer much worse in value when you drive it off the lot than a traditional gasoline powered vehicle.

Ford Goes Back To The Future

While most automakers are taking a step back from large vehicles, Ford, at least, is taking a brand new look at vehicles that once were the hottest selling thing since the “Pet Rock”: the mini van.

It’s been six full years since Ford stepped away from the mini van market, but someone there must think there’s no time like the present to revisit a once great idea. And maybe they’re right. As the one of the 3 major U.S. automakers which didn’t require any federal bailout money, Ford has shown it is possessed with wisdom. They were also the first u.S. automaker to move away from larger, gas guzzling trucks and cars and re-focus their efforts on smaller and mid-sized automobiles for the more fuel efficiency minded consumer market.

That’s why some in the industry expect the new Ford Transit Connect Wagon to do better than conventional wisdom might expect it to. The new Transit Connect wagon seats seven and has the classic sliding side door that is emblematic of mini-vans every where, but it is also shorter with a higher roof line. Perhaps the only two points of interest for consumers are the fact that Ford claims the new Transit Connect wagon will do better than 30 miles per gallon and cost just $20,000 (for a base unit.)

With a sticker price much lower than just about any electric or hybrid-electric vehicle, and a lot more room, it looks a sure thing when it comes to the question of whether or not the new Transit Connect Wagon will be a hit with consumers. It costs less, is safe, has heft and gets decent gas mileage-all the things consumers have repeatedly looked for in a vehicle.

Unfortunately, until the vehicle is released onto dealership floors all of this is just conjecture. Even the best ideas have resulted in spectacular failures when it comes to understanding the fickle mind of consumers. Ford might have a few things in its favor, but the proof is in the pudding–or the mini van sales.

Another Good Reason To Buy A Prius

Toyota Prius owners love to brag about the money they save by not needing to fill up their gas tank as frequently as their neighbors who don’t own hybrid vehicles. Now they have another reason to brag: a recent report showed the Toyota Prius to be one of the least likely vehicles to be stolen.

This is both a good thing and a bad things because it likely denotes the fact that people still are not very enamored with the Prius.

Does the Prius go farther on a tank of fuel than a non-hybrid vehicles? Of course it does. Will it win a “Cutest Car” contest? Not very likely.

Electric and hybrid vehicle designers seem to have trouble adapting the look of these vehicles to the coolness factor that comes with needing to fill up more often. Sure, there are extensive electrical systems to consider and the massive battery compartments, but you might think they would have come up with a way to work around those things by now.

Remember the “Thing”? Not the member of the Fantastic Four but the Volkswagon, two-wheel drive, convertible off-road vehicle they brought to the United States in 1973. Only to remove it from the market in 1974 when sales fell through the floor. Not only did Americans not buy these vehicles they mocked anyone who did. It didn’t matter that the Thing was a solid off-road vehicle which some arguably claim was the forerunner of the Sport Utility Vehicle. What mattered was that nobody seemed to want one because they didn’t think they were very, well, cute.

Prius, and just about every other reasonably priced electric vehicle on the market, has the same problem. Despite their enhanced electronics systems and the fuel savings they offer, these new vehicles simply are not very attractive.

For now, this is a problem no electric vehicle manufacturer has been able to solve. Sure, the Tesla S is a great looking car, but it is not for the average American family. What the market needs is a decent electric or hybrid electric vehicle that runs good, and looks great. Then they can start worrying about someone stealing their cars, too.