Monday, August 27, 2007

Planning To Buy A New Car? The WSJ Says To Wait.

The Truth About Cars is citing a Wall Street Journal article that advises new car buyers to wait for even better deals than they can find now. The Journal article also says that some brand new 2008 models are being released with incentives already attached! That seems like pretty good news for consumers and pretty bad news for the auto manufacturers. And if the housing slump / credit crunch becomes a prolonged issue, this incentive situation could get even better / worse, depending on your perspective.

Leaving A Sour Taste

Jalopnik is claiming that "a recent study by Experian Automotive indicates that 80% of cars branded as lemons no longer maintain any sign of that status once moved out of state." Wow. As if it wasn't enough to have to worry about cars with flood damage having their titles scrubbed.

Friday, August 24, 2007

LoJack Locates Stolen Lamborghini In Italy

Autoblog tells us about an auto theft foiled with the help of LoJack. The first and only time I had to call LoJack resulted in my car being "found" in the local pound. How was I supposed to know NYC's finest would tow my car the very minute parking restrictions on 14th Street began? (Apparently they have tow trucks lined up around the corner every night waiting to pounce!) Still, I was probably the happiest person the workers at the impound lot had ever seen.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

One Day Early! A Friday Diversion...

This time, a Volkswagen Beetle getting shredded. (Thanks to CarDomain for the tip.) Check out how the shredder just keeps rotating and changing the direction of its shredders. It just grabs any little piece of the Beetle it can. Then it shreds it. And then it tries to grab another piece. Until the entire car is gone.

There's more video of SSI's shredder in action here. Enjoy.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

DeLorean Comeback!

Jalopnik is reporting that you'll be able to buy a brand spanking new DeLorean in 2008 for about $60,000!

Saturday, August 18, 2007

The WSJ On Gas Taxes

The Wall Street Journal posted an article with some interesting facts about the gas tax. It's definitely worth a read in its entirety, but here are some of the key points:
  • The federal fuel tax in the U.S. is 18.4 cents per gallon. This has been unchanged since 1993.
  • The average fuel tax per gallon of gas (including state and federal taxes) is $0.47 in the U.S., $1 in Canada, $1.91 in Japan, and $4.54 in the United Kingdom. Think about that: Britons pay more in fuel taxes per gallon than Americans pay in total for a gallon of gas.
  • Fuel taxes make up just under 40% of the $145 billion spent on highways in the U.S. But, the U.S. Highway Account is expected to run regular deficits beginning in 2007, so more funding is needed.

The Gibbs Aquada In Action On Land & In Water!

Check out this YouTube video of the Gibbs Aquada driving down a boat ramp and out into the water.

Notice where the driver / captain sits. Right in the middle of the vehicle. In fact, the whole seating arrangement looks a bit weird to me. But, it's pretty cool to see an amphibious car in action. Very James Bond-esque.

Thanks to CarDomain for the link.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

The Story Of Tesla Motors As Told By Martin Eberhard

Autoblog has a video from Martin Eberhard's presentation on Tesla Motors in L.A. from earlier this month. It's just over 50 minutes. And the Q&A at the end is especially interesting.

One knock on electric cars has been what happens when the battery dies. Batteries generally aren't very friendly to the environment. Martin explains that the Li-Ion batteries that they're using in the Tesla Roadster aren't deemed as hazardous as the batteries traditionally used in cars. And Tesla has apparently partnered with someone to recycle as much of their batteries as possible.

The other interesting big-picture take-away for me is that electric cars really move the choice of fuel away from the driving experience itself. Yes, electric cars require electricity to function. But, electricity can be produced from any number of sources (nuclear, coal, wind, solar, etc.). So, not only is the car itself "friendlier" to the environment than gas-powered cars, but people may further choose that they'd like to power their electric car with solar panels installed on their home's roof, for example.

Martin concedes in the video that Tesla's still got a lot of work to do to get the Roadster to market. And he's noncommittal on a delivery date (even though he expects it to be before the end of the year). Here's to hoping that it's sooner rather than later!

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

BusinessWeek Report on High-Tech Cars

Business Week has developed a mini-site with various articles about what they call "high tech" cars. There's a lot of info about more fuel-efficient, cleaner cars here. I haven't read it all, but there are articles on clean diesels, solar-powered cars, the Lexus LS600hL, BMW, a review of the Saturn Aura Hybrid, and a piece on "What Will You Be Driving In 10 Years?"

Most articles also have a slide show, so if you're interested in how some of this technology actually looks, be sure to look for the appropriate links.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Flogging The Dealer

One of the great and powerful things about the Internet is the ability of a single person, a "common" person, to get their message out to millions of readers with little-to-no effort.  And of course, any time the masses gain power, that can scare the establishment.

Jeff Bonnell wrote an interesting article at DealerRefresh about the impact of an example of this sort of power/fear relationship - a customer writing a negative blog post about a car dealership and having that blast show up on the first page of the dealership's Google search results.  Bonnell calls this "flogging."  The best way for a dealer to deal with sort of situation?  Contact the complainer and set things straight.  Once resolved, the flogger may actually edit the post and now instead of a scathing review showing up in Google, the dealer may have a glowing review and specific example of their excellent service.

I love this article for two reasons.  First, I think it's great to see that now dealers can be held accountable.  Customers have always been able to complain to the Better Business Bureau, but who bothers to check with the BBB before buying a car?  Now, all you need to do is get out your computer and tippy-tap your way to a message that may well be picked up quickly.  There probably aren't that mean real links to Jim Bob's Chevrolet out there, so there's a very real likelihood that your article will be noticed by Google and Yahoo.

The second part of this story that I love is that the most effective and sensible response by the dealers is to do the right thing.  Car dealers don't exactly have the best reputation from consumers.  People tend to not trust car salesmen, thus the oft-used stereotype of the "used-car salesman."  Maybe a new era of transparency and accountability is upon us?

Friday, August 10, 2007

Zipcar Car-Sharing Service

Three folks from Brooklyn tried the Zipcar service and put a video up on YouTube about their experience.

I always wondered how Zipcar handled security. (The keys must be left in the car, as many people can use a Zipcar any given day.) Well, turns out they issue you a little keycard, that can be used to unlock the doors, to gain access.

Also, these three had some problems getting out of a secure parking lot, as they couldn't find the "clicker" to open the gate. They called the Zipcar hotline and got sorted promptly, which impressed me.

If you're interested in Zipcar, or you'd like to learn how Zipcar approaches the rental car industry with their different approach, check out this video.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

From Tesla's Tuesday Presentation in LA!

Well, I wasn't there, but Edmunds' Philip Reed was. And he wrote a little something about his impressions.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Suzuki Recalls 75,000 Vehicles

Autoblog informs us about the latest vehicle recall, this time by Suzuki because of faulty seat belts (yikes!) on Forenza sedans and Reno hatchbacks. Autoblog also tells us how well Suzuki has been doing lately otherwise. Check it out.

Monday, August 6, 2007

The Umweltzonen Are Coming!

Some cities (like London) levy surcharges for vehicles that want to drive in congested areas.

Other cities (like Manila) forbid vehicles (based on each vehicle's registration number) from entering restricted zones at certain times on certain days.

Now, Germany is implementing a system that "grades" cars based on how "friendly" they are toward the environment. German cities will be divided into zones (Umweltzonen), ranked from 1-5. Only the most enviro-friendly vehicles, for example, would be able to enter zone 5. Special badges will be given to drivers when they register their vehicles in Germany that will show what zones their vehicles have been cleared to enter.

This strikes me as an interesting approach to the problems caused by vehicle emissions and congestion. It does seem to be a convoluted way to influence vehicle purchasing decisions (how to quantify the "cost" of not being able to drive into zone 5, for example). But it should help reduce air pollution in certain areas of their cities.

Autoblog has more.

Li-Ion Battery-Powered Toyota Prius

Joe White over at the Wall Street Journal writes about his experience driving a Prius modified with a lithium-ion battery pack. The supplemental lithium-ion battery allows the Prius to be driven for the first 40 miles or so on batter power, at a cost of about 75 cents per charge.

Joe explains how a regular Prius (with its factory-installed nickel-metal hydride battery) operates and talks about other plug-in concepts (like the Chevrolet Volt) as well. And there's a short video documenting his experience with the modified Prius (which is not sanctioned by Toyota and invalidates the Prius' warranty).

Joe's reaction to this experience? "Wow! Who wouldn't want this?" But he also considers some of the remaining hurdles for plug-in technology, including reliability, safety, range, and cost.

Ford Recalls 3.6 Million Vehicles

Autoblog reports that Ford is recalling 3.6 million vehicles with potentially faulty cruise control switches that could cause fires. Their post includes the list of vehicles affected, so if you own a Ford, check it out.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Friday Diversion: Dancing Cars

CarDomain today has some crazy video footage of dancing cars.

I have seen cars bouncing around in commercials and movies, but I haven't seen this type of "dancing" before. One of the cars actually cracks apart mid-dance. And keeps going. Enjoy.

I Wish I Were In LA.....Next Week

AutoblogGreen tells us that Tesla Motor's co-founder Martin Eberhard will have one of their Roadsters on display in Los Angeles on Tuesday, August 7. Oh, he might be talking or something, too.

Autoblog On Picking Up Your New Car Overseas

We have posted a couple of times (here and here) about picking up your new luxury European ride direct from its factory overseas.

Autoblog has some new information for us in this post. Apparently:
  • 80,000 Mercedes buyers avail of the European Delivery option,
  • Volkswagen's Autostadt gets a million visitors a year, and
  • BMW has developed its own European Delivery center (for $275 million!) and dubbed it BMW Welt, expecting 45,000 customers to pick up their new cars there each year (alongside 800,000 visitors).

Commenters to Autoblog's post seem pretty excited about their European Delivery experiences. And they report saving a nice chunk of change on their purchases as well.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

It's On! X-Prize For Commercially-Viable 100 MPG Car

Jalopnik has a nice post on the latest X-Prize, including a press release with all kinds of interesting tidbits.

This X-Prize will award millions in hard, cold cash to the team that can produce a vehicle that gets at least 100 MPG (or equivalent), is commercially viable (read: people will want to buy it), and performs well in a cross-country road test (which is expected to take place in 2009 or 2010 and be covered on TV).

This is cool stuff. And it has the potential to really increase awareness of energy-efficient alternatives to vehicles' (and the world's) current reliance on oil. Competitors have already applied from the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Germany, and Switzerland. Oh yeah, Tesla Motors (which we last wrote about here) is one of the entrants!

Extending The Oil Change Interval

USA Today has written an article discussing (most) automakers' recent practice of extending their recommended maintenance intervals for oil changes. Ford (up to 7,500 miles) and Volkswagen (up to 10,000 miles) are reportedly the latest to extend their oil change intervals. Just two manufacturers are mentioned as shortening their oil change intervals--Toyota (to 5,000 miles from 7,500 miles) and Porsche (to 12,000 miles from 24,000 miles).

One of the quotes I found interesting is this: "Shell Lubricants, which owns the Quaker State and Pennzoil oil brands and operates the Jiffy Lube oil-change chain, long ago abandoned its corporatewide 3,000-mile oil-change message." Really? Then why do they keep putting their "come back in 3,000 miles!" stickers in our cars?

Thanks for the tip goes to Automotive Digest, which--as usual--does a nice job of summarizing the key points of the original article.

And I'd be remiss if I failed to mention that BrightCar helps you keep track of the manufacturer-recommended interval for your car's oil change and other important maintenance items. Download your free trial and check it out.

Electric-Powered Dragster Blows By "Gassers"

Hot on the heels of Business Week's article on Tesla Motors, The Wall Street Journal has posted a fun read about electric-powered cars designed for drag strips.

One of the cars, the White Zombie, is a 1972 Datsun purchased for less than $585 in 1985 that has since been converted to electric power by Portland resident John Wayland. The White Zombie goes from 0 to 60 in 3 seconds! And it's been trouncing so-called "gassers" at a local drag strip. Click through for the story and some cool video of the White Zombie in action.