Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Warranty Just Expired? That's OK. You're Still Covered!

Back in March, Business Week wrote a little piece about Cadillac making it easier for dealers to avail of corporate funds (so-called goodwill funds) to make free repairs for customers whose warranties had recently expired. They also write, "Car companies have for years kept goodwill funds for dealers to draw on" when customers experience problems that would have been covered under a recently-expired warranty. So, this practice is not just specific to Cadillac.

If you experience a problem just after your warranty expires, be sure to ask for your dealer to repair it free-of-charge. They might be able to tap into the manufacturer's goodwill funds to cover the cost of the repair. And they should be more than happy to comply. After all, they know that happier customers are much more likely to return to the dealership when buying a new car.

Tesla Motors In Business Week

In "A Carmaker With Silicon Valley Spark", Business Week tells the interesting story of a "different" car company. They claim that Tesla Motors is attempting to become the first successful auto manufacturer startup since Chrysler, which was founded in 1925. The entire piece is worth a read, especially if you're as into Tesla's Roadster as I am (and here, and here). Here are a few of the interesting tidbits:
  • Elon Musk, a PayPal founder who sold to eBay for $1.5 billion, is Tesla's chairman and main financier.
  • Tesla uses tactics other startups employ, such as limiting the cash pay to its 250 employees but giving them all stock options to compensate.
  • Tesla outsources a ton of work that goes into its cars, while focusing on core technologies such as the battery, computer software, and a proprietary motor.
  • Tesla is using lithium ion batteries in its cars, the same kind that are used in laptop computers. The cost of the batteries makes up 20% of the total cost of its Roadster, but the cost is expected to fall (and has recently been falling about 8% annually).
  • Tesla is planning to build a roughly $60,000 5-passenger sedan and a $30,000 passenger car.
  • Tesla has created a division called Tesla Energy to market and sell its energy storage technology. Think Nordic is its first customer.
  • Tesla is considering an IPO for next year. Hey, even if I can't afford a Roadster, I might be able to pick up a few shares!

Domestic Vs. Import: Quality

Christopher Neiger over on AOL Autos interviewed a former quality engineer who worked for both a US and a non-US auto manufacturer. His comments suggest that--at least as regards the two auto companies he worked with--the non-US firm was far less willing to compromise quality when building its vehicles. Its a limited sample, and he does say that both companies took quality very seriously and built good quality vehicles. But, after reading it, I was left with the impression that the non-US firm cared about quality more. Check it out yourself.

Thanks to Autoblog for the tip.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Lifetime Warranty Offered By Chrysler

Today Chrysler has begun offering a lifetime powertrain warranty to its customers. The warranty is valid for the original owner of the vehicle only, provided the car is inspected at least every 5 years by a certified dealer.

Offering such a warranty should increase potential customers' willingness to consider Chrysler vehicles when making a purchase, which could lead to increased sales. But I'm not convinced that many incremental buyers will be swayed by just the warranty itself. How many people drive their cars to the point they're having powertrain failures? If you're not planning on owning your car that long, this warranty isn't a factor. Instead, you'd be comparing Chrysler's 3 year / 36,000 mile warranty with the warranties of competing manufacturers. (And 3/36K doesn't stand up very well nowadays.)

Now, if someone plans to buy a car and own it for 30 years, then maybe this warranty sways them to buy a Chrysler. But they are the kinds of customers that would be most likely to avail of the lifetime warranty, so they might not be the customers Chrysler would necessarily want (or find profitable).

I think it'll be a long time--i.e., until we see how many warranty claims they have to handle--before we know how this all works out, even if Chrysler gets a sales bump short term.

For Cerberus, though, this looks like a good move. If they want to cash out of Chrysler in 5 years or so, this move probably doesn't hurt them a bit. They might get a sales bump from the lifetime warranty offer in the next 5 years, but any expenses associated with honoring lifetime warranties probably won't show up for years thereafter.

As you might expect, everyone is covering this story today, and many have interesting comments posted as well. Here are the links:

Monday, July 23, 2007

BrightCar Sale

Mark your calendars - BrightCar has a big 50%-off sale coming up tomorrow - Tuesday, July 24!

We are running a promotion in conjunction with a cool little site called Bits Du Jour.  BDJ (as the cool kids call it) is a site that advertises one software product per day at a drastically reduced rate, like a software version of Woot.com.  Well, BrightCar is going to be that product this coming Tuesday.

If you want in on this, and I know you do, you can either go to BitsDuJour.com, check out the coupon on the BrightCar site or just go to the BrightCar purchase page and enter BitsDuJour as your referral code.

Friday, July 20, 2007

An Enjoyable Way To Pass The Last 10 Minutes Of The Workweek

If you're looking for something to do for the last few minutes of your workweek, check out this post on CarDomain. Some curious Japanese apparently decided to see what would happen when they launched various tires (F1, passenger car, sports car, tractor, etc.) off a ski jump. It's interesting to see which tires fly the best, but it's also humorous to see what the various tires do post landing. They don't have any kind of slow-down mechanism like ski jumpers employ to prevent them from just continuing to travel. Enjoy. And watch out below.

These Tires Never Go Flat

The Driving Woman has an interesting post up about Michelin's TWEEL. The TWEEL is basically a combination of a tire and a wheel. And it requires no inflation. In fact, you can't inflate it. Check out the picture in the post to see exactly what it looks like.

Michelin plans to develop them first for heavy equipment, which will take a couple of years. Passenger vehicle versions are targeted for about 10 years' time.

Imagine, no flats. Ever. Pretty cool. I wonder if this could also help improve the average driver's fuel economy, as you wouldn't have to worry about under-inflated tires.

Heed the Warnings!

We've all noticed the warnings on pressurized canisters that caution us to keep the canisters away from fire and not puncture them. Well, the guy in this video at Jalopnik didn't heed the warning. It's not pretty.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Global Petrol Consumption Champions: US!

Wow. That's about all to say when you see this graphic from The Economist. The U.S. consumes more petrol each day than Britain, Germany, Japan, France, Canada, China, Russia, and Mexico......combined.

Thanks to AutoblogGreen for the heads up.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Increase Your Fuel Economy By X%!

We've all seen products that claim to improve your car's gas mileage by some percentage or another. Well, Autoblog reports that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency tested 93 of these products and found that nearly all of them failed to work. (And the 10 that did work worked only marginally.) This study has prompted the Federal Trade Commission to warn drivers not to waste money on them. In a Detroit News article, FTC spokesman Hampton Newsome said. "These products often are found to have little or no savings in terms of fuel economy and can damage your engine or increase emissions."

The best way to achieve decent fuel economy for your vehicle seems to be to keep it properly maintained. The FTC claims that a poorly tuned engine can increase fuel economy by 10% to 20%. In addition to regular tune ups, it's important to keep tires properly inflated and air filters clean. Your fuel economy can also be greatly affected by how you drive. Easier acceleration tends to be better, and faster highway speeds (i.e., 60+ MPH) generally hurt fuel economy.

Of course, BrightCar can help you keep your vehicle properly maintained and in top shape. In addition to reminding you when you need to take your car in for regular maintenance, BrightCar can also be set up to remind you to periodically check your car's tire pressure, for example. Also, you can monitor your vehicle's MPG on the fuel economy graph on the homepage. If you notice a dip, it might be time to check the tire pressure, clean the air filter, or take the car in for servicing.

Gas Prices Around The World

Autoblog linked to a study on global gas prices by Gadling that has a nifty graphic showing that--even at about $3 per gallon of gas--Americans have it relatively easy compared with what others are paying around the world. Prices per gallon seem to range between $0.17 in Caracas to $6.65 in London. Yowza!

Monday, July 2, 2007

The 2-Minute Car Wash

Autoblog is reporting on GE's newly-developed superhydrophobic coating. This coating could theoretically be applied to cars' exteriors to prevent dirt, etc. from collecting on them and to make washing a matter of spraying the car for a couple of minutes with the hose.

In a video, GE shows that honey rolls right off a glass slide coated with its so-called "lotus leaf" compound, while it just sits on a regular glass slide.

The article's commenters wonder whether this coating will ever make it to market on automobiles, for various reasons ranging from technical difficulties with its application to dealers' desire to preserve their own high-margin "coatings".