Monthly Archives: November 2012

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.

GM Recalling 3,000 Vehicles For Air Bag Problems

This week General motors announced it was recalling 3,000 of its 2012 Buick Verano, Chevrolet Cruze and Chevrolet Sonic model vehicles due to a problem with the air bag.

GM made the announcement after announcing they had already been in discussions with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration about the problem. The problem causes air bags to NOT fully inflate in the event of a crash. No incidents or injuries have been reported as a result of the fault air bag.

GM said the problem stemmed from a faulty machine used in the manufacture of the vehicles themselves. GM said it had identified the problem machine and corrected the issue in the factory but was concerned that some vehicles may have been released before the repairs to the machine were made. Hence the recall.

GM announced it was recalling more than 12,5000 of the 2013 Cadillac XTS because of a problem with the rear head restraint. In that case the restraint would not lock in the upright position, causing passengers to lack the proper head security in the event of a vehicle collision.

GM has had a series of recalls lately, all without a single injury as a result of faulty equipment. So far, they’ve been lucky. The NHTSA allows manufacturers five days from the date they identify a problem to issue a recall. If the company fails to meet that deadline they run the risk of being handed a hefty fine. This prompts the manufacturers to move quickly when a problem is identified, but it does nothing to help manufacturers identify the problems in the first place.

For the most part automobile manufacturers must rely on customer complaints or reports from the mechanics who service these vehicles for detection of a problem. Otherwise they won’t know there is a problem until something fails to work as it is supposed to. In the case of faulty air bags this could result in an injury or even, worse case scenario, a fatality. And that could cost the company even more in the long run.

Flood Damaged Cars From Sandy

Some very early estimates from Hurricane Sandy indicated that the number of flood damaged cars might exceed the 600,000 vehicles damaged by flood waters from Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. However, more than a week after the storm and the insurance companies covering that area show that fewer than 40,000 vehicles were damaged during the recent storm.

Flood damaged vehicles are notorious for showing up months later and miles away on some used car dealership lot where they are fobbed off on an unsuspecting buyer. These poor folks get cars with untold hidden problems such as short-circuited electronics, strange odors and internal rust. These cars are usually not worth more than you could get at salvage yard for them, but if nobody is the wiser they can fetch much more from a dealership.

Although some bet that Hurricane Sandy would produce a huge influx of these types of “second-hand” cars, but these estimates have proved wrong. Perhaps car owners in the northeast were better prepared than those living in New Orleans prior to Katrina, or perhaps it was just the luck of the draw. Whatever the cause, the number of vehicles damaged by flood waters last week was not as bad as might have been expected given the breadth of devastation.

There are strict laws forbidding the sale of previously flood damaged vehicles, or any vehicle with a known defect which is not fully disclosed to the new buyer. All states and the federal government have rigorous standards when it comes to the buying and selling of automobiles, but buyers should still be cautious, nonetheless.

15 DUI’s And Still Driving Nets Illinois Man Felony Charge

An Elgin, Illinois man faces between 6 and 30 years in jail, without the possibility of parole after police claim he was arrested for DUI 15 times and had his license suspended 4 times–and was still caught drunk driving.

Illinois has a law which allows anyone caught for a 6th DUI to be charged with a Class X felony. That means the man, who police are unable to adequately identify because he has a litany of assumed names, will now serve a minimum of six years in state prison. Taking him off the road a for a lengthy period of time certainly seems to be an adequate response to repeat offenders.

As more and more convicted DUI offenders are continually being found on the road once again–with or without another valid license-police and legislators have sought increasingly more powerful ways to discipline them and keep them from driving again. Unfortunately for these offenders the only way that works is to keep them off the streets for an extended period of time, via a lengthy jail sentence. This amounts to setting special felony charges such as the “Class X Felony” being used in this case in Illinois, which police can use to cite these people who repeatedly put others lives at risk just so they can drive to the liquor store, or bar or wherever it is they feel the need to go when they are intoxicated.

It is still too early to know if these new penalties will be enough to prevent people from repeatedly driving under the influence of alcohol. There is nothing saying that once this Elgin man is eventually released from prison that he won’t get back into a car drunk and start driving around his community. But at least for the time being, while he is incarcerated, he is off the road, and people in his community can breathe a sigh of relief.