Thursday, September 28, 2006

CARNIVAL OF CARS: A Drive Around The Auto Blog Block for Friday, September 29, 2006


Kirk Kerkorian is threatening to buy even more GM stock. That's probably not the best headline Rick Wagoner has read this week, but there was a lot of other news and interesting/odd/puzzling incidents for those who know where to look, so let's hit the road, shall we?

Have you seen Cadillac's old job/new job spot for the DTS? Never says the word "Cadillac," but you get the message. If the cool guitar hasn't completely distracted you. Check it out here.

Just in case you are thinking about buying a new car or truck in the near future, you should bookmark If It's Got An Engine ...where they have conveniently collected links to the various manufacturers' web site listings of incentives.

And if it's a used car you are interested in, Garage Blog has the second in a five-part series on the topic of buying a previously owned masterpiece.

Ever heard of Jon Fischer? You know, the Jon Fischer who lives in Lunenberg, Massachusetts. He's 18 and he has - you aren't gonna believe this - come up with Speed Demon, an electronic tracking device that tells parents when, where and how much their teens were speeding in the family buggy. Read all about it at American Inventor Spot.

Let's see, now Jon is 18 and he has invented a device that means trouble for millions of his fellow adolescents. Jon, you might want to look into the Witness Protection Program.

Next time you have a bad day driving, come back to this post by Jennefer at Three Sons and a Princess.

Hillary Will has it in abundance. The will to win, that is. FastMachines has a great piece on a fascinating driver who is a Wheaton graduate in economics who spent a bunch of years as a financial analyst before going racing as a professional. You can also read her blog here.

In fact, here's Hillary:





OK, moving right along ...

I absolutely love reading Peter DeLorenzo at The Auto Extremist. He cuts to the chase about Carlos Ghosn's bid for a Renault-Nissan-GM alliance by noting that some of those fabled synergies of such deals might actually result, but:

"Any realistic, cohesive, effective partnership would take years to develop - if ever. And when I say years, I'm not talking Dieter Zetsche's concept of time - when everything magically works itself out in just a couple of quarters - but years, as in more than a decade."

While we're on the topic of GM's future, Straightline has the scoop on Kerkorian's plan to increase his share of the General's stock. Short of divine intervention, I don't think this guy is going away any time soon.

Now head over to my other favorite auto scribe, Robert Farago at The Truth About Cars, for his slicing and dicing of the Chrysler Aspen's driving personality:

"Good thing the seats offer no lateral support, the rack and pinion steering provides no useful feedback, the A-pillars cut off any practical view through a bend and the Aspen’s anchors are powerful and easily modulated."

I can't wait to read Robert's assessment of the new Sebring's exterior design.

Carscoop has a comprehensive, and I do mean comprehensive, list of links to everything being said at the Paris Auto Show this week. Somebody is on the ball over there!

Also in the mood for comprehensiveness is Kay Bell at Don't Mess With Taxes, who, in addition to being a car gal and a tax and finances expert, is also a birder. What has this previously unmentioned tidbit about Kay got to do with autos? Well, she was tooling along the other day out there in that part of Texas where all they have is miles and miles and miles of nothing but miles and miles and miles when she spied something she'd never seen before ....

I can't tell you the whole story, you gotta go on over to Don't Mess With Taxes. I promise it is as majestic as the Swainson's hawk soaring below.

See, you never know for sure what you you'll read next at the Carnival of Cars!

You might even see something about a moon shot. In fact, GM's Bob Lutz talks about the auto industry's moon shot - developing, producing and selling fuel cell vehicles - in this post at Fastlane. Interesting that miniaturization of computer electronics took roughly 30 years. Where on that timeline are we on miniaturization of fuel cell power production?

How did I miss this? FosFor Wheels has the Ferrari P 4/5. LeftLane News has the second look. Too bad it's not a Maranello product. I always thought the P3 was the most attractive of the 60s Ferrari prototypes.

Gear6 says it's time to send Mr. Chavez down in Venenzuela a message. The Auto Prophet also has a message for Hughie, which which I absolutely agree. Joining the chorus is Joe at MyFordDreams2. That Joe is a character and he has such excellent tastes in the blogs to which he links!

Buickman at General Watch and Automotive News' Ed Lapham are contemplating nicknames for various auto industry poobahs.

If we were looking for songs to associate with auto industry poo-bahs, would Bill Ford's be "Yesterday" by the Beatles?

GM FYI Blog guest blogger Jillian Beaumont left Big D yesterday at the start of the Chevy Silverado Drive for Farm Aid. They were at the Texas State Fairgrounds.

Leave it to Grant's Auto Rants to speculate about the menu at the first dinner of the prospective GM-Renault-Nissan or Ford-Renault-Nissan alliance. I think there will be a dinner but it will feature crow and it won't be to commemorate a new alliance.

Say a prayer today for Shouting Thomas at Harleys, Cars, Girls and Guitars. It's two years today since Myrna departed this world and it's still so tough. That's the kind of love the Lord is talking about with that stuff on the two becoming one.

Here's the lovely Myrna:










Xenon has a new body kit for the Dodge Charger. Definitely improves a look that I still just don't get. HotWheels Blog has the details. On the body kit. Not my not getting it.

They're doin' the morning shift over at Jalopnik.

David at MotorAlley takes a look at that hydrogen gaseous Seven-Series Bimmer.

Austin Davis at My Honest Mechanic gives an honest answer about intake manifold spacers and performance.

Paul Tan has a report on the latest Yaris from the Paris Auto Show.

Brian at Racedriven.com posts his first blog video, a look at a new custom mini-truck. He's also got some thoughts about the NASCAR point system.

You get the impression I'm kind of hurrying? It's just that there's soooooo much great stuff out there in the auto blogs, how am I ever gonna get through it all?????

Great stuff like Serious Wheels' gallery of Audi R8 shots.

PC takes a well-deserved hit over at The Auto Prophet. It was a goofy ad but it's time more of us told the PC cops to take a hike.

Yes, that was The Auto Prophet's second appearance in this week's Carnival of Cars.

The new Jag S-Type has Edward Sanchez at The Car Blog talkin' mojo.

Hey, you want more cars on the road that exceed the feds' CAFE standards by 25 percent or more? Go check out The Driving Woman. Joanne understands the way the world works. Unlike, for instance, that Hugo fellow down in South America.

Sorry, I just couldn't resist.

Joe Sherlock at The View Through the Windshield had a tail-gater in Portland, which naturally led to his rather enlightening post today on self-driving cars. Hey, anything to get the goofballs off the road.

And with that, we are at the end of this week's drive around the auto blog block.

Don't forget!

Submit your blog article to the next edition of carnival of cars using our carnival submission form.

Past posts and future hosts can be found on our blog carnival index page.





Wednesday, September 27, 2006

7-11 Drops Citgo, Cites Chavez Comments About Bush, America in Ending 20-Year Deal


Displaying more intestinal fortitude than many have come to expect of a Fortune 500 corporation based in America, 7-Eleven announced today in Dallas that it is not renewing its 20-year-old agreement to sell Citgo gasoline. The decision directly affects approximately 2,100 of the familiar convenience store chain's 5,600+ outlets in the U.S.

A company spokesman said Chavez' recent comments were at the heart of the decision, noting that "regardless of politics, we sympathize with many Americans' concern over derogatory comments about our country and its leadership recently made by Venezuela's president Hugo Chavez."

The spokesman discouraged talk of a boycott of Citgo, however, saying such action would hurt approximately 4,000 employees of the 7-11 stores currently selling the Venenzuelan petroleum company's gasoline.

UPDATE: 7-Eleven backpedalling

It took a day before 7-Eleven officials started backing off the idea their decision to drop Citgo as a gasoline supplier was connected to recent statements at the UN by Venenzuela's Hugh Chavez.

Reuters reports the same company spokesman who yesterday indicated the link is today denying it.










BlogNetNews Launches Auto Edition for Bloggers


If you've ever dreamed of a site that brings together in one place all of the latest news, comment and analysis from across the auto blogs, there is something new on the Internet today that you need to know about, the BlogNetBiz auto edition. You can see BlogNetBiz's political news sites at http://www.blognetnews.com.

BlogNetBiz auto edition pulls together in one place feeds from across the auto blogosphere "to create new content and information that will organize your slice of the Internet to make it work better for your readers."

Take a few minutes to check out the beta site and you will quickly notice some of the top features of a site that I think is going to grow like crazy in coming months. There is an auto news aggregator, an auto blogs search engine, an index of the most actively linked-to auto blogs, hot auto blogs comments and an index of the most widely read auto blogs. And that's just the beta version!

Here's how BlogNetBiz's Dave Mastio explains it:

"In one place, in one minute, you'll get an update on what's going on across the blogosphere. And your readers will be able to find the best car-related content - not based on random voters or some editor's choices - but based on the real actions of auto bloggers and their readers.

"Our theory is simple: We think our tools will help new blog readers find the best content fast. A good experience means they'll come back - to you and to us. We also think a quick grasp of what's going on in the blogosphere will help you get more out of the time you spend blogging."

Dave cautions the site is new and the programming is still in the late development phase - kind of like the white pre-production vehicles manufacturers use to get the last bugs out of an assembly line before going to full production. Check it out and let Dave know what you think at editor@blognetnews.com.

By the way, I am not an investor in BlogNetBiz, they aren't paying me to say this stuff and I don't receive "a cut" on the profit they make, which I hope is big. I do know Dave from his years as a USA Today columnist and I recognize a great product when I see it. Like I said, I think this is going to be growing big-time.





Friday, September 22, 2006

CARNIVAL OF CARS: A Drive Around the Auto Blog Block for Friday, Sept. 22, 2006


Boy, we have some catching up to do, so let's get started, shall we!

Is it possible that the real key to the success of Toyota and Honda in challenging Detroit is the fact the two Japanese automakers designed their products to appeal to women? The Car Blog thinks so. My wife told me I could say I don't know.

If you are thinking about buying a used vehicle, Mike Willis of Carsopia, a new entry in the Carnival of Cars, has some tips for you. Here's Part 1. Welcome to the Carnival of Cars, Mike!

Another new entry is from GolbGuru, a "twentysomething grad student," who offers some interesting observations about the relationship between safety and value in used vehicles, including this:

"I have deliberately avoided the use of the words 'cheap car.' Once you go through the ratings, you will realize that expensive is not necessarily safe and cheap is not necessarily unsafe."

Hmmm.

Ah, the glories of a thumper! Dorrington Williams at If it's got an engine ... loves his Suzuki 650 Savage and wonders if the same powerplant configuration could be applied to larger vehicles:

"What I propose is a hybrid single-cylinder engine. Couple a large single-cylinder engine up to an electric motor/generator. The electronics controlling the motor/generator would have to be fast enough to switch from motoring to generating every other engine revolution."

Another Hmmm.

From across the pond, comes All Tips and Tricks with advice on how to get the most out of your tyres. Don't forget the one in the boot. Welcome to the Carnival of Cars, All Tips and Tricks.

My goodness, the carnival is stuffed with advice this week! Jeff Neilan at Car Buying Tips explains the mysteries behind that dreaded icon of the auto biz, the dealer invoice.

Bet you didn't ever expect to see a reference in the Carnival of Cars to the need to join the Ferret Fanciers Club. Mad Kane's Humor Club combines useful advice on how to plan for a really good weekend getaway with tips on how to maintain your sanity when nothing goes as planned.

Big doin's north of the border as CASCAR becomes the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series. The Garage Blog assesses the assessables.

And while we're at the The Garage Blog, find out which GM "high-end production facility is predetermined to produce crap."

Perhaps it was a bad day at the garage.

Chuck at Car Buying Tips notes that there is a certain fragrance in the air, something having to do with "New Car Model Selling Season." You will know what to do.

They're coming out of the woodworks over there at Car Buying Tips! James Raia does the Weekly Driver review and he likes the Passat as an alternative to the usual Camry or Accord purchase. James is also rather taken by the Honda Fit.

Kevin, Denny, both Jeffs, Matt, Tony, Dale, Mark, Jimmie and Kyle might as well give up now cauz when all the rubber and oil has cleared, it's gonna be Kasey Kahne sittin' purty in the Nextel Cup Season Championship. Hey, Brian at Racedriven.com said it, so it must be true!

Joe Sherlock peers at The View Through the Windshield and can't stop asking if the world really needs Mercury:

"Today's Mercury is the poster child for 'Badge Engineering' and is an almost-clone of its Ford-badged sibling. Mercury is a virtually unknown brand outside of North America; Ford stopped selling it in Canada a couple of years ago.
"

It's a tough question and Joe has some solid thoughts on it. No, that's not Joe in the photo above, but it is the Mercury Milan Voga concept in the background. Wonder what she'll do if Mercury goes under?

Gas is headed back towards the $2 per gallon neighborhood, at least for now, but it's still important to get the most mileage possible out of your vehicle. Unless, that is, your last name states with a G and ends with an S and you happen to have started a very successful computer business in the garage. Ann Mattinatt at Ask Patty has gas-saving tips for those of us who didn't.

Speaking of Asking Patty, Jody DeVere is scheduled to speak at a Six Apart affair in Deetroit come Oct. 30, along with the folks from GM Fast Lane Blog. Makes me wish I could hop a 737 and head west that day.

How do you know when a friend has completely gone bonkers? When they start talking about getting a job in the auto industry! If you can't persuade them to do something a little saner - like being a safety inspector in a dynamite plant or doing live-ammo tests of bullet-proof vests - The Garage Blog has some suggestions to pass along to your unforunate acquaintance.

And in the continuing fall-out from El Presidente's hilarious stand-up routine at Turtle Bay, The Auto Prophet suggests an anatomically difficult exercise for the Venenzuelan chief executive. Remarkably similar to the sage advice being offered over at Tapscott's Copy Desk, I might add.


Yes, please feel free to steal the above photo and post it everywhere!

Finally, That'sRacin' has the scoop on allegations of cheating in the engine room at RCR. This has Ugly written all over it.

And on a personal note:

Don't miss the Fast Forward reviews of Marcus MacFarland now being posted regularly on Tapscotts behind the Wheel. The first two are here and here. MM is, of course, my son and I dare say he is a natural-born auto writer.

He attended his first manufacturers' ride and drive yesterday - the GMer for Saturn and Chevy in Virginia - and came away with loads of valuable information and interesting insights about the industry, its people and processes. Not bad for a rookie, huh!

Yes, I am proud of him! See ya next week.

Don't forget!

Submit your blog article to the next edition of carnival of cars using our carnival submission form.

Past posts and future hosts can be found on our blog carnival index page.







Wednesday, September 20, 2006

FAST FORWARD: Passat is Not Your Typical Station Wagon


Maybe its just me, but when I think of a station wagon, the images that come to mind are straight out of movies like Vacation or Better off Dead. You know, the tank green Ford LTD Country Squire with that God-awful fake wood trim and someone’s dead Grandma strapped to the top. Too far? Perhaps.

These Grizwold-mobiles were the bane of all car guys existence. They were ugly, had the handling of a pregnant cow, and took a Sunday afternoon to make 60 mph. Frankly, I’m not sure there was a single redeeming quality in 70’s and 80’s station wagons.

With the recent resurgence of the station wagon, it’s good that the Volkswagen folks have an appreciation for the importance of the driving experience. I peered out the window this week praying that I wouldn’t be catapulted back to the bad ol’ days of four-wheel-suburbanite hell. Fortunately, what lay before me was anything but an eye sore. This wagon, like many of the new breed, is sporty, sleek, and doesn’t have the bench seat akin to a Lazyboy sectional.

PERFORMANCE

My tester was equipped with a 2.0 liter turbocharged inline four-cylinder powerplant making a respectable 200 horsepower. This is the same motor that comes standard in the GLI. The fact that it is about 200 pounds heavier than the GLI is noticeable. However, with a 0-60 mph time under eight seconds, it’s no slouch, either.

HANDLING

Unlike the more expensive and more powerful 3.6 VR6 and VR6 4 Motion, the 2.0T is only available in front-wheel drive. Despite it’s lack of AWD, the 2.0 liter car was relatively neutrally handling. Of course, it has a tendency to understeer at speed, but satisfactory nevertheless.

STYLING

Despite its wagon handicap, the Passat is easy on the eyes. Typically German, it has an elegant demeanor inside and out. Further, it has more interior cargo space (35.8 cu.ft) than the Saab 9-3 2.0T, Volvo V-50 2.4I, or BMW 325xit. Instrumentation is precisely where it should be, and never difficult to operate. I was particularly impressed with the Dynaudio sound system. I had no trouble equalizing to accommodate my taste.

JUDGEMENT

Still a wagon, yet much cooler than those of yesteryear. I enjoyed the Passat Wagon. As much as it pains me to admit it, I did. It has reasonable performance and good cargo space. No Grizwoldmobile here! --- Marcus MacFarland

FAST FORWARD: Toyota Gets Off Beaten Path With FJ Cruiser


OVERVIEW

For those of you who’s hearts yearn for long weekends away from the city, camping deep in the wilderness, and the kind of freedom that can only be delivered by vehicles who’s competence lies beyond the beaten path, Toyota has something to show you.

Meet the FJ Cruiser. New for 2007, this no frills off-road wanderer features a stylistic blending of old and new. It bears a likeness to the original FJ40, especially in the front end. The new FJ targets young people who prefer off-road prowess to street driveability. FJ feels big, tall, and does not have creature comforts in mind.

PERFORMANCE

This rugged, trail-blazing truck is endowed with a 4.0 liter V-6 generating a respectable 239 horsepower. More importantly, the V-6 makes 278 lbs.-ft or torque, which is a necessity in off-road exploration. On the street, the engine feels powerful. FJ also has one of the easiest and smoothest clutches I’ve driven. You truly can get in and feel as though you’ve driven the FJ before. On the other hand, the shifter is sloppy and imprecise. Also, you could fit a blue whale in the blind spot generated by the huge c-pillar.

HANDLING

It doesn’t take long behind the wheel of this full-time 4X4 to understand where Toyota’s priorities are with this truck. It handles like a 4WD truck. Don’t expect the FJ to corner. That is not its purpose. However, given the fact that most of these trucks will spend the lion’s share of their time on asphalt, it is important to say that the ride quality wasn’t bad. In fact, it was smoother over rough roads than I anticipated.

STYLING

Like so many new cars coming out, the FJ takes the styling from the original FJ40 and ads a modern flair. I’m a big fan of the blending of old and new, when it’s done right. My hat’s off to Toyota inside and out. There is no doubt this truck isn’t for everyone. In fact, with its mammoth instrumentation, rubber floor mats, and spray-washable seats, the FJ is singular in its purpose. If you don’t get it, you’ll hate it.

JUDGEMENT

Cheap off-road enjoyment. The FJ fills the void left by the Jeep Cherokee. It has more room than a Jeep Wrangler and is far cheaper than a Hummer. Late 20-somethings who have graduated from their lifted Jeeps to young children and mortgages should take a good hard look at FJ. --- Marcus MacFarland


Tuesday, September 19, 2006

No Surprise in GM-Ford Merger Talks With Boeing Man at the Helm in Dearborn

That Automotive News story out this morning about a possible GM-Ford merger should come as a surprise to nobody. Why? Look at the guy who is running Ford, a former head honcho at Boeing. GM-Ford is analogous in many respects to Boeing-McDonnell-Douglas.

Seattle-based Boeing, of course, first became famous for its bombers, including the B-17 and B-29 in World War II and the B-47 and B-52 during the Cold War. But Boeing really grew when it became a success in the commercial jet market, beginning with the 707 and carrying through the 727, 737, etc.

Throughout its life, Boeing's chief rival for both defense and commercial business was often St. Louis-based McDonnell-Douglas, which focused on fighter aircraft like the F-4 Phantom and F-15 Strike Eagle. McDonnell-Douglas first became famous for its DC-3 but was perenially number two to Boeing in commercial jets, with its DC-8, DC-9 and DC-10 aircraft.

When the Cold War was won and the Soviet Union ceased being America's greatest threat, reaping the "peace dividend" meant far fewer defense contracts and programs. A tremendous consolidation ensued in which Boeing merged with McDonnell-Douglas in 1997.

Now along comes new Ford head Allan Mullaly and word spreads that GM and Ford have been talking about some sort of alliance apparently since the day after Carlos Ghosyn of Renault-Nissan fame approached GM about an alliance.

The Wall Street Journal reports the two Detroit giants talked but nothing came of the discussion. The Journal notes that Bill Ford Jr. insists that Mullaly was not brought over simply to enginner a merger.

We will see.

Friday, September 08, 2006

CARNIVAL OF CARS: A Drive Around The Auto Blog Block for Friday, September 8, 2006


Some week, huh. Bill Ford throws in the towel and installs an airplane guy as Dearborn's new boss man, GM extends its powertrain warranty and UAW president suggests a very dark place where Daimler-Chrysler should shove its request for health care relief. Hey, this car stuff is serious business, no?

So, time to fire up the old cyber buggy and head on down the road for this week's Carnival of Cars!

Don't go shopping in Boston for a mid-70s Eldorado rag top. Carpundit has photos of one whose owner left the top down during a monsoon that dumped at least an inch of rainfall on Beantown. Notes Carpundit: "If this thing ever comes up for sale, give it a pass. Unless you like permanent mildew."

Joe Kissel is getting all steamed up over at Interesting Thing of the Day. Literally. Very interesting retrospective on the Doble steam cars produced by the Doble Brothers' General Engineering Company. Don't assume we've heard the last about steam and autos, though, because Joe reports BMW is working on a "turbosteamer."

Over at CarBuyingTips, Chuck Russell says it really is possible to have negative credit information removed from your credit record. Hmmmm. Any comments on this one, folks?

Egon spent a recent day at Rev It Up! and rather enjoyed himself. A full report is at Automoblog.

Ever heard of Dipstick Fast Lube? You have to go to Easley, South Carolina, to find it but Jodey DeVere at Ask Patty has an interview with Lori Miller, owner of the first and only all-female lube shop.

First-time Carnival of Cars entrant All Tips and Tricks has 10 tips for rental car customers. Strange, I thought at first that it was a blog about creative rules applications - aka "cheatin'" - by the good ole boys back in NASCAR's southern fried golden era.

And another first-time Carnival of Cars entrant is Automotive.com, which is rather taken by a Brandweek piece arguing that women are the decisive marketing influence in the auto industry.

Welcome to both of you! Be sure and add All Tips and Tricks and Automotive.com to your regular blog reading list.




Say it ain't so, Louis! Sadly, Louis Albornoz says on Top Speed there is no way NASCAR is coming to Staten Island. So this artist conception of the masses of Yankee humanity crowding into the rumored raceway is just a dream. Or is it?

Do you know what "STP" actually stands for? No, it isn't "spend that profit." Go to How Products Were Named for the answer.

Uh, could somebody please explain to me the true nature of such sites. They seem to be proliferating like rabbits.

You knew it was coming, right? NASCAR has The Chase for the Nextel Cup. Now the NHRA comes up with The Countdown to the Championship. Brian at Racedriven.com reports some "mixed" reactions at the U.S. Nationals.

Next thing you know, Roller Derby will proclaim "The Skate to Bailey's Comets." Never heard of it? Go here. It even featured a $1 million payoff.

Don't forget!

Submit your blog article to the next edition of carnival of cars using our carnival submission form.

Past posts and future hosts can be found on our blog carnival index page.







Wednesday, September 06, 2006

GM Extends Warranty to 100,000 Miles: Will Ford Now Offer Frequent Fueler Programs?

General Motors announced today that it is extending its standard powertrain warranty to five years and 100,000 miles for all its nameplates, beginning with the 2007 model year in the U.S. and Canada.

The roadside assistance and courtesy vehicle programs are also expanding. GM Chairman Rick Wagoner is expected to make the formal announcement later today.

In the meantime, Bob Lutz is touting the decision on GM's Fastlane blog, noting that:

"When you take the new powertrain warranty, the courtesy transportation and roadside assistance, the safety and security of technologies like OnStar and StabiliTrak, and the trained GM Goodwrench technicians working at the largest dealer network in the industry, it all adds up to the best consumer confidence package anywhere. As Rick says, we believe in the quality and value of our cars and trucks, and we’re putting our money where our mouth is. Because we can."

Go here for the full GM statement.

UPDATE: Ford looking at Frequent Fueler program?

No word yet on whether Ford will begin offering Frequent Fueler credits for its least efficient birds, uh, models. No word, either, on whether Ford's model nomenclature will change in the wake of former Boeing executive Allan Mulally replacing outgoing chairman and CEO bill Ford.

Some automotive industry wags are suggesting Ford's biggest seller, the F150 full-size pickup, will see a name change to 999, both to honor Henry Ford's most successful race car and to align Ford and Boeing in the 707-727-737-757-767 model designation approach.

UPDATE II: It's "landing gear" now, not suspension!

Ford engineering departments may also be wondering if they will see changes in long-standing automotive terms. For example, will "horsepower" now be changed to "thrust" in engine specifications?











Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Ford Names Top Exec From Defense Contractor Boeing; Why This is a Bad Day for the Blue Oval


Bill Ford is turning over the reigns of the car company bearing his family name to a senior executive from one of the nation's biggest defense contractors, Boeing. Allan Mulally replaces Ford as CEO after serving 37 years at Boeing, most recently as President and CEO of the company's commercial division and executive vice president of the corporate parent.

Ford's decision is certainly raising eyebrows and generating headlines but the obvious question for analysts and automotive critics is whether such a move what Ford Motor Co. needs? Frankly, it doesn't make much sense to this observer.

Here's why. Ford is one of the world's largest mass-market companies and it's in deep trouble because of its recent inability to sustain sufficient mass sales to maintain profitability. Ford has an aging loyal customer base and is failing to secure new buyers among younger demongraphics that feed long-term auto industry success.

So the solution is to hire a guy from a company that admittedly is nearly as storied as Ford (just mention the B-17, B-29 and B-52 and you get the idea), but which is virtually the opposite of a mass-market firm?

Boeing has two customer bases - the Pentagon and the world's commerical airlines. Neither of these markets bear even the remotest resemblance to the extraordinarily competitive world automotive market with its millions of individual consumers.

Unless Mulally has virtues that only Bill Ford knows about, this move looks very much like the long-shot Hail Mary of a desperate guy who's failed at saving a car company that could become a has-been much sooner than anyone previously thought possible.

Ford survived the tenure of a defense industry star once before - Robert McNamara in the 1950s and early 1960s with the Edsel debacle and the Falcon - but the company simply isn't as strong today as it was back then, if only because then Ford had three competitors, all in Detroit. Today there are legions of competitors from around the world and their ranks are growing.

This is a very bad day for the blue oval.

There is a case to be made for Mulally, but it's thin, as noted by Robert Farago at The Truth About Cars:

"There's also no question about Mulally's leadership abilities. His 'team-building skills' within and without Boeing are legendary. In a March '06 article for Design News, Boeing's Chief Engineer of the 777's interior design sang Mulally's praises.

"'Alan exhibits every quality that you would want to see in a good leader -vision, trust, integrity, and, above all, an overwhelming enthusiasm.' George Brody also said, 'He's just dynamic when it comes to getting people to pull together.' Of course, a big part of Mulally's confidence comes from his technical know-how. One wonders how long it will take Ford's new CEO to get up to speed on the intricacies of car building.

"Or if Mulally can readjust his internal clock to the car industry's three year product cycles. For 37 years, the Boeing man was attuned to a two decade gap between a new product's conception and customer deliveries. (You can count the number of planes he's worked on with one hand.)

"And that's on top of strategic thinking that extends out 40 years or more (a modern aircraft can stay in service 60 years). Ford has eight brands and dozens of models, each of which require some form of design, engineering and marketing right now - in addition to the models on the drawing boards or in development."

Go here for Farago's complete post.







Saturday, September 02, 2006

CARNIVAL OF CARS: A Drive Around The Auto Blog Block for Friday, Sept. 1, 2006


Okay, what are we bid for Jaguar and Aston Martin? Do we hear two billion? One billion? Just think, British quality, history and prestige can all be yours. Do we hear .... Perhaps we can interest you in a long-term lease?

Things haven't quite gotten to that point just yet but Ford confirmed this week that it is trying to unload its two profit-sapping luxury marques. Any bets on how much Ford will get for either or both? There's more interesting news out there, too, so let's fire this thing up and hit the auto blog road, shall we!

It's been a rough week for Kay Bell at Don't Mess With Taxes. Some difficulties with the family Cavalier made for a post called "Run over by auto repairs." You get the drift with that title real quick. Cyber sympathy cards, letters and links are appropriate.

Kay also updates her previous posts on the soon-to-be-expiring federal tax credit for purchasing a hybrid like the Toyota Prius. There's more time for hybrids from other marques, but Kay says don't tarry if you must have a Prius.

Madeleine at Mad Kane's Humor Blog is thinking of getting a frequent user deal from her local tow company. Seems hubby Mark is, shall we say, somewhat forgetful about stuff like turning off their car's lights.

Oh yeah, speaking of hybrids, Chuck at Car Buying Tips has a guest piece this week from Kadence Buchanan on hybrids. Chuck also takes an extended look at the state of play at GM visavis fuel economy.

BTW, my test vehicle this week was the Lexus 450H. I was quite impressed. More to come on that topic later when my review appears on Tapscotts Behind the Wheel. Marcus MacFarland of Fast Forward will have something to say here on that score, too.

The Garage Blog crew has put more than 9,000 miles on a couple of Mazda6 wagons in recent months and they report in detail on their impressions. I think Mazda will like this one because it whispers "buy, buy."

Brian at Racedriven.com notes a passing conversation between Scott Riggs and Jeff Gordon during last week's Cup race at Bristol. Somehow, I don't think Cale and Donnie and Junior would have conducted the same sort of discussion.

Watching the odometer turn over the 100,000 mile mark is GolbGuru at Money, Matters and More Musings. From the sound of it, his Mustang is going to just keep on keepin' on galloping. Long-term relationships are the best, don't you think?

And moving right along ...

Want the low-down on the industry as the dog days of summer come to an end? As always, Peter DeLorenzo at AutoExtremist.com is the place to find "the players, the schemers, the smoke-and-mirror-dreamers" of the car biz. I confess I am always a sucker for alliterative headlines, phrases, book titles and place names.

E.L. Eversman is nearing completion of a total redesign of Auto Muse. Stay tuned cauz it's gonna be good, I promise.

Who said this?

"Let's mull over some numbers. 2.0 liters. 200 horsepower. 302 lb-ft. 7.4 seconds. 6 speeds. 47.9 miles per gallon* combined."

That's right, Autoblog's Alex Nunez, doing the calculations for the Alpina D3 edition Bimmer.

No, I don't think that's Alex behind the wheel in the shot to the right of the Alpina D3. Bet he wishes it was, though.

Cars! Cars! Cars! says they spent some time sitting in the new Ford Edge and came away thinking Ford has lost it, at least in terms of the interior. Not an auspicious outlook for Dearborn.

Citreon unveils its hybrid-diesel C4 concept at the Paris Auto Show. Carscoop has the details.

Kenny Bernstein, Tom Hammonds and Jeg Coughlin, Jr. announced at the Summer Nationals that they are returning to the quarter mile wars in 07. Fastmachines has mixed feelings about it all.

For Labor Day, Bob Lutz is talking at Fastlane Blog about styling being the last great differentiator among marques.

Now for an opposing view .... the dealers are getting the wrong end of GM's value pricing deal, again, according to Jim Dollinger at Generalwatch. He's not real high on Mark LaNeve, either.

And finally, over at GM's FYI Blog, the powers-that-be are encouraging readers to check Tara Strickstein's various renderings, including a very nice take on a 76 Caddy. Lots of albums like Tara's over there.

Shouting Thomas at Harleys, Cars, Girls and Guitars has a new CD out called "Innocence" and he's created a site to check it out.

Things must be slipping over Jalopnik way because they're talking up Drifting. I'm tellin' ya, man, it ain't racin'.

EDITOR'S NOTE: The preceding comment about drifting was not meant to devalue Jalopnik. Sometimes, my tongue-in-cheekisms aren't clearly enough tongue-in-cheek. See comments below.

Just-Auto's Dave Leggett is talking PAG sales and serving Aston Moet. Speaking of PAG, just below here is the guy who did it:

Jacque Nasser. MyFordDreams2 points out that Ford is still trying to recover from the Nasser era, which is why PAG is on the auction block.

Wondering when to change your vehicle's serpentine belt. My Honest Mechanic's Austin Davis has some thoughts on that topic but he won't take you round and round.

Volvo is not typically the tuner crowd's first choice but the S40 is making some progress in that field for the Ford-owned Swedish concern. Paul Tan has an interesting piece on the Heico HS4 Odin Concept .

Try saying that five times fast.

And if you can, try this five times fast: Bright Blue Brabham.

There is a redesigned Honda CRV for 07, but Straightline has photos and details and links now.

And The Auto Prophet is distinctly unimpressed with the new CRV's exterior styling, observing:

"Honda has great technology, and excellent engines. But their design for the U.S. market is weak, in fact, it is the chink in their armor. I mean, what is this thing supposed to be? It has BMW X5/Mercedes ques along the sides, and a rear quarter that reminds me of a Chrysler product. The front end has a small nose with an apparent overhang and a strange mustache underneath. The front bumper appears to jut forward like a cow-catcher."

Harsh, but TAP won't be alone in such evaluations.

The Driving Woman has some inside info on Honda's marketing expectations for the new CRV.

Could 500 horsepower under a Mustang's hood ever be too little too late? The Truth About Cars' Bob Elton explains why the answer is yes with the newest Shelby edition of the classic pony car.

Joe Sherlock peers out The View Through the Windshield and sees reports of gas returning to $2 per gallon, but still thinks U.S. consumers have got to learn new habits about fuel consumption and he's got some serious proposals for doing just that.

Have you looked at Top Speed lately? Well, you should because there are some really interesting things going on over there.

And with that note, we have arrived at the end of this week's Carnival of Cars.

Don't forget!

Submit your blog article to the next edition of carnival of cars using our carnival submission form.

Past posts and future hosts can be found on our blog carnival index page.

UPDATE: MSNBC's Will Femia links to Carnival of Cars!

Very cool, thanks Will. Hope you come back every week. And welcome to all you "Clicked" folks visiting Carnival of Cars for the first time.