Get PJ Media on your Apple

PJ Lifestyle

Ronnie Schreiber

Ronnie Schreiber opines about cars at Cars In Depth and other automotive web sites.
Follow Ronnie:

Can Aston Martin Afford Making Their Cars More Affordable?

Wednesday, January 4th, 2012 - by Ronnie Schreiber

Note: This post was previously published at Cars In Depth.

If you’ve been pining for a hand crafted high performance British luxury car but the only thing standing in your way was the size of the monthly nut, Aston Martin has some good news for you. The exclusive Newport Pagnell automaker has announced what they describe as “unprecedented” low interest rate financing on nearly their full line of automobiles. The offer is good on six models and offers car loans at interest rates as low as 0.9%. That super low rate is available on the DBS and DB9 coupe and convertible Volante models, as well as the V8 Vantage coupe and roadster and the four door Rapide for loans up to five years. Six year loans are a bit more expensive, 1.9%. A-M’s twelve cylinder models, the V12 version of the Vantage and the Virage grand tourer, can be financed at 1.9% up to 5 years with longer loans at 2.9% The seven figure One 77 is not included in the offer.

It might move some metal but this could be very damaging to the Aston Martin brand and may indicate some panic within the company.

Aston Martin used to be a very small car company, producing as few as 600 cars a year two decades ago. Under Ford’s ownership, the brand grew substantially, eventually reaching about 7,000 units in 2007, the same year that Ford sold off A-M for slightly less than a billion dollars as it marshaled cash presciently before the financial crisis of 2008. That crisis resulted in fairly steep declines in all ultra-luxury marque’s sales. About 4,500 Astons were sold in 2010, down slightly from 2009. Year to date sales for 2011 are again down a few percentage points. Earlier this year it was reported that Aston Martin would be cutting production of the four door Rapide almost in half due to slow sales.

Aston Martin faces the dilemma that all makers of exclusive goods face when they try to dramatically increase their sales. The more you sell, the less exclusive your products are. Luca di Montezemolo recently has been saying that Ferrari won’t build more than 7,000 cars a year. Of course, in 1993, when a financial crisis in Asia resulted in Ferrari sales dropping by half after rapid expansion, Luca said back then,  “Ferrari will never, never, never build more than 3500 cars a year.”

So high end car makers must be at least cognizant (if not actually diligent) about not damaging their brand by making it less exclusive. That’s why the announcement of the financing offer from Aston Martin is surprising. When was the last time Bentley, Rolls-Royce, Ferrari or Lamborghini had a sale? Yes, more mundane luxury marques advertise year end offers with special prices or financing, but BMW, Mercedes, Porsche and their competitors for the most part have much lower average transaction prices than the ultra luxury brands. If the city you live in has a fashionable shopping district, you’re not likely to see “50% Off! Clearance Sale – Everything Must Go!” banners in store windows in that part of town.

Also, if you need a special interest rate to be able to afford a car, can you really afford the car in the first place? Yes, rich folks like to save money too, but how many potential Aston customers are sitting on the fence because the interest rate is a percentage point or two too high? And speaking of a percentage point, does it really help the brand to offer a slightly higher rate for 72 month vs 60 month loans? Again, if the difference between being able to make the nut and not is stretching out the loan for another year, should that person really be buying an ultra luxury car?

Recently, Sajeev Mehta and the Best & the Brightest over at The Truth About Cars were discussing people who can afford to buy, but not fix, a used Porsche. Many commenters said that if you can’t afford to fix it, you shouldn’t be driving it in the first place. While, as Sajeev stresses, a monthly note on an entire car is easier to financially digest than a lump sum repair bill for an engine or transmission, those commenters do have some logic on their side. If you can’t handle the costs of ownership beyond purchase or lease price, maybe you really can’t afford it. One of the things that has killed Mitsubishi passenger sales in the US has been bottom feeding credit sales to people whose cars then get repossessed. That does wonders for depreciation. Selling cars to people who can’t afford them ultimately damages your brand as the cars get passed down the food chain. If easy financing can damage a mass market brand, it seems to me that all the more so it can damage an exclusive luxury brand.

On the upside, if you’re looking to get a good deal on an Aston Martin, I’d recommend that you not take advantage of the special offers on financing. Just wait a year or so for the people who can’t really afford an Aston but take A-M up on the current financing deal to start selling their cars.

Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, a realistic perspective on cars & car culture and the original 3D car site. If you found this post worthwhile or entertaining, you can dig deeper at Cars In Depth. If the 3D thing freaks you out, don’t worry, all the photo and video players in use at the site have mono options. Thanks – RJS

Read bullet | Comments »

Why Do People Drive Drunk? Maybe Because It’s Safer Than Walking Drunk

Monday, January 2nd, 2012 - by Ronnie Schreiber

This is a revised version of a post originally published at Cars In Depth.

I was going to write a snarky post based on Steven Levitt’s Freakonomics argument that, over the same distance, it’s safer to drive drunk than to walk drunk until I saw a figure that gave me pause. We can easily understand that 41% of the 34,000 people who died in traffic accidents in 2009 (the last full year of available figures) in the US were alcohol impaired but nearly as high a percentage, 35%, of the 4,000 or so pedestrians killed in traffic accidents that year were also drunk.

…Every mile walked drunk, turns out to be eight times more dangerous than the mile driven drunk. To put it simply, if you need to walk a mile from a party to your home, you’re eight times more likely to die doing that than if you jump behind the wheel and drive your car that same mile.

Of course Levitt isn’t advocating that people drive drunk, but calling your friend a cab might be a greater kindness than simply taking away his or her keys and telling them to walk it off. In any case, no matter whether you and your friends are teetotalers or dipsomaniacs the problem of drunk pedestrians still affects you. One of the things that makes today’s cars look the way they do are standards to protect pedestrians.

We all have to drive the cars built to those standards and try to see over the end of the tall, blunt hoods they inspire. The standards call for more crush space on vehicle noses and more deformable space between the hood and the top of the engine, with hoods made of softer materials than used currently. The idea is to reduce the force of pedestrians’ heads hitting the hood. All of that ultimately affects the way that cars look. That’s not just an aesthetic consideration, exterior styling affects a driver’s ability to see the road. Pedestrian safety standards are only going to get stricter.

Proposed pedestrian safety systems include hoods that raise themselves pyrotechnically, like airbags.

Having been on the receiving end of a car/bicycle accident, I’m sympathetic to pedestrians who get run down by cars. However, I was at fault in that accident and the 35% of pedestrians who get killed when drunk also have to bear at least some of the blame for their own demise. Yes, most pedestrians who get killed by motorists aren’t drunk, and I’m sure none of us wants drunk pedestrians to get killed either. However, when the issue of pedestrian safety comes up, the focus is almost always on the responsibilities of drivers and car manufacturers, and rarely on the pedestrians’ own behaviors and obligations. When pedestrian safety comes up, though, don’t you think that the discussion should include the fact that a good chunk of the pedestrians who get hurt or killed by drivers aren’t kids in crosswalks, businesspeople stepping off the curb or moms pushing baby carriages but rather drunks?

Please visit Cars In Depth for more on cars and car culture.

Read bullet | Comments »

Censored Cartoons – What Stereotypes are Politically Correct?

Friday, December 30th, 2011 - by Ronnie Schreiber

YouTube Preview Image

I like to have fresh content daily at Cars In Depth, the car culture site that I edit. That can be a grind so to make the writing load a bit lighter, on Fridays I’ll feature YouTube videos with vintage car commercials (or promotional films) and “Car Tunes“, songs about cars and being on the road. It’s always fun to see what you learn on your way to learn about something else, and while I was looking for an appropriate vintage ad to run this week, I came across this animated 1951 short from Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, directed by Tex Avery called The Car of Tomorrow. It was one of a series of silly looks at the future (or actually a satirical look at the present), looking at farms, homes and televisions as well. Retro future is always fun. Some people take it too seriously though.

You can find two different versions of The Car of Tomorrow on YouTube, one is a few seconds shorter because it’s been censored to satisfy today’s sense of political correctness. One of the original scenes that was cut out featured a Native American (though in 1951 of course he was called an “Indian”) driving a rather Pontiac-looking convertible that had a tipi as the convertible top. Another censored bit was of a Chinese man (can I say Chinaman?) riding in the back of a roadster that turned out to pulled by a rickshaw driver. Now to be honest, that shows how silly some of the PC sensitivities can be. Native Americans, at least the Plains Indians, indeed lived in tipi tents. Though today they are more likely to be powered by pedal bikes or scooter motors, rickshaws are still used throughout China and much of the rest of Asia.

It’s not just Tex Avery. There are many, many old cartoons with ethnic, racial and gender stereotypes. Warner Brothers even let the copyrights lapse on some of the Looney Tunes cartoons, allowing them to pass into the public domain, because it was thought that Bugs Bunny’s wartime imitation of Japanese folks might cause the studio some PC grief. When you consider just how racialist Imperial Japan was, how racism as well as imperialism drove some policies regarding China and Korea, Bugs’ squinty eyes and thick glasses just don’t seem to be a terrible moral crime.

What I think best demonstrates the nonsensical silliness and hypocrisy of the PC censorship of old cartoons best is just how selective the censorship is. The censored version apparently was not censored enough since the bowdlerized version has still upset feminists. The cartoon features a car “especially designed for the women” that is not only painted pink and trimmed with curtains, panties and flower planters, Avery gave it an obvious bust and derriere. Actually, come to think of it, Avery’s ladies car it is a bit reminiscent of the Dodge LaFemme, a pink car with a cosmetics case that Chrysler actually sold in the 1950s.

Also, while the censors were exquisitely sensitive about the feelings of Native Americans and Chinese, they absolutely ignored another ethnic stereotype. Coming not long after the deleted scenes with the Indian convertible and Chinese roadster, there is the “super thrifty Scotchman model”, pedal powered. In today’s racial and ethnic calculus it’s wrong to show Chinese using people power to get around but it’s perfectly fine for Scots to do the same and there’s nothing wrong at all about saying that the Scots are cheap.

For more on cars and car culture, please visit Cars In Depth.

Read bullet | Comments »

How the Mighty Have Fallen & Those Left Standing

Thursday, December 29th, 2011 - by Ronnie Schreiber

Fired GM CEO Rick Wagoner. Photo credit: Marty Densch

With January approaching that means the big North American International Auto Show is just around the bend. The domestic auto industry has gone through wrenching (no pun intended) changes over the past three years. Preparing for the big Detroit show, Marty Densch did a couple of posts at Cars In Depth looking back at the auto executives that have lost their jobs and those who have been left standing.

For the past 3 years there have been large delegations of politicians from Washington at the big Detroit auto show. With 2012 being an election year, I expect that the NAIAS media preview will again be visited by a lot of pols, particularly Democrats eager to take credit for the turnaround at GM and Chrysler. I could be wrong but my impression is that there’s been a lot more turnover in the ranks of those in Detroit who ran the domestic auto industry into the ground than in the ranks of those in Washington who ran the domestic economy into the ground.

GM CEO Rick Wagoner got fired by Barack Obama and his replacement, Ed Whitacre, stepped aside after a short stint as a caretaker. Bob Nardelli and Jim Press are gone from Chrysler. Wagoner, Nardelli and Whitacre will most likely not show their faces at the NAIAS this year. Jim Press may be there, but he’s taken a low profile since being hired last year as a consultant to Nissan. In his list of those who have fallen, Marty Densch also included a couple of politicians, Nancy Pelosi, who lost her job as US House Speaker after the Nov. 2010 congressional elections and former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm, who was term limited. Though the executives disgraced in the implosion of the domestic auto industry have the decency to stay outside of the limelight, politicians will continue to flock to journalists’ camcorder lights at the NAIAS like moths to a flame.

Former Speaker Nancy Pelosi and congressional delegation to the 2011 NAIAS in Detroit. Photo credit: Autoblog Green

Pelosi and Steny Hoyer spent tens of thousands of dollars heading a congressional delegation to the 2011 NAIAS two months after the Democrats lost power in the House. Now that GM is profitable, I won’t be surprised to see her at the 2012 show. Since leaving office, Granholm took a job working for Al Gore’s Current TV cable network. She hasn’t been shy about taking credit for the bailout of GM and Chrysler and for all the hard to account for green jobs in Michigan she claims that her administration created or incubated, so I expect Granholm as well to be at the ’12 NAIAS, ostensibly to cover the show for her tv network, but primarily to crow about GM’s current profitability and Chrysler’s survival.

For more on cars and car culture, please visit Cars In Depth.

Read bullet | Comments »

Fisker Karma Joins Chevy Volt With Potential Battery Temperature Problems

Tuesday, December 27th, 2011 - by Ronnie Schreiber

YouTube Preview Image

Video: A123 Systems

Originally published at Cars In Depth

Just as the flurry of news about the potential fire risk in the Chevy Volt’s battery pack was dying down, Bloomberg reports that the battery manufacturer for another high profile electric vehicle, the Fisker Karma luxury extended range hybrid, has revealed what it called a “potential safety issue” in the cooling system of the batteries that it makes for the car, currently assembled in Finland using a $529 million loan from the U.S. Dept. of Energy.

A123 Systems, a leading producer of Lithium-Ion batteries that supplies Daimler and General Motors in addition to Fisker, said that hose clamps connecting parts of the Karma battery pack’s internal cooling system were not aligned properly, creating a the potential for leakage of the coolant, which might cause overheating and also possibly short circuit the batteries, causing a fire.

Because current Li-Ion batteries are flammable, battery temperature control and cooling is a critical process. Concerns over EV fire safety were raised when a crash-tested Volt later caught fire in a NHTSA facility. Short circuits caused by leaking battery coolant is suspected to be the cause. While GM uses a different battery supplier, LG Chem, for the Volt, A123 will be the battery vendor for the EV version of the Chevy Spark subcompact, to go on sale in 2013.

The news was made public in a letter from company CEO David Vieau published on A123′s investor-relations website. Since production of the Karma started only recently, less than 50 cars are said to be affected by the problem. Vieau said that a “confirmed repair” for the potential leak has been developed and that A123 has already started to fix the defective batteries. The cost to A123, Vieau said, will be “minimal” and the company’s relationship with Fisker “remains strong”. Last week the Anaheim based luxury hybrid car company announced that it has shipped 225 Karmas to Fisker dealers, with another 1,200 in the pipeline. Currently put together by Valmet in Finland, Fisker says that production of the Karma will eventually be moved to a former GM assembly plant in Wilmington, Delaware.

For more on cars and car culture, please visit Cars In Depth.

Read bullet | Comments »

Subsidies on Domestic Ethanol & Tariffs on Imported Ethanol End

Monday, December 26th, 2011 - by Ronnie Schreiber

Originally published at Cars In Depth

Lost in the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, Congress has quietly ended subsidies on ethanol fuel as well as ending a special import tariff on Brazilian ethanol. The ethanol subsidy paid fuel blenders 45 cents per gallon to make E10, gasoline blended with 10% ethanol. The tariff added 54 cents to the cost of importing a gallon of ethanol from Brazil. The ethanol subsidy currently costs US taxpayers about $6 billion per year. Over the past 30 years, the program has cost $45 billion. By taking no action on the subsidy before adjourning for the end of the year, Congress effectively killed the program.

Though ethanol interests, like corn growers and affiliated industries, have considerable political power, a wide variety of critics, cutting across political lines, had coalesced around the issue, encouraging Congress to let the subsidy end. The food processing and livestock industries joined with environmentalists to oppose the subsidy. The policy was encouraging diversion of corn from feedlots and food processors to ethanol production, raising the cost of foodstuffs. Environmentalists, some of whom used to endorse ethanol as a biofuel, now say that it’s “dirty” because its production is carbon intense.

Ethanol trade groups have said that the industry would survive the loss of the subsidy, now that the US ethanol production industry has become established. The industry is still protected by congressional mandates that call for 15 billion gallons of renewable fuels by 2015 and 36 billion gallons by 2022.

The ethanol issue involves a number of powerful players, corn growers and affiliated industries on one side and food interests, automakers and engine builders on the other. Then there’s the EPA to consider. The EPA has approved the use of E15, an 85/15 gasoline/ethanol blend, for use in post 2001 cars. Manufacturers say that without modifications, E15 will damage engines. In February, in a bipartisan move the House voted 285-136 to block the EPA from moving ahead with E15 regulations.

While ending the subsidy would seemingly discourage ethanol’s use, the end of the 54 cents per gallon tariff on imported Brazilian ethanol might do more to encourage that use than the subsidies did. Brazil is one place where it makes sense to use ethanol as a fuel because of Brazil’s huge sugar industry. The ratio of energy needed to produce it vs the energy obtained in the fuel for ethanol made from corn is barely greater than one, 1.3:1, compared to 2:1 for using sugar beets and 8:1 for sugar cane, the feedstock for Brazil’s ethanol. It costs half as much to make Brazilian cane ethanol as it does to make American corn ethanol. According to one academic study transportation costs to US ports eliminate that competitive advantage, but if that was a certainty, Brazilian sugar cane producers wouldn’t have threatened to start a trade war if the tariff wasn’t ended.

For more on cars and car culture, please visit Cars In Depth.

Read bullet | Comments »

Happy Hot Rod *Hanukah

Saturday, December 24th, 2011 - by Ronnie Schreiber

Technically speaking, a nine branched Chanukah candelabra is called a Chanukiah. The word Menorah, from the Hebrew word for something that enlightens, is actually the name of the seven branched candelabra that was used in the Temple and Tabernacle, but today “Menorah ” is usually associated with Chanukah.

Just about anything that burns fuel or can hold a candle or lamp oil can be used to make a Chanukiah. My friend and colleague David Holzman has even made decorative menorahs out of engine valves.

“Decorative” because his candlesticks are arranged in a circle and to be a kosher Chanukah menorah, acceptable for ritual use, when viewed all eight lights have to be in a straight horizontal row at the same level so you can see eight distinct flames.

Eight? Didn’t I say nine before? Well there’s a light for each of the eight days of Chanukah. The ninth is called the Shamas (beadle), it is used to light the actual Chanukah lights, and it is usually set off from the other eight by height. So things that come in sets of eight are useful. Fortunately, lots of car stuff comes in sets of eight. Murilee Martin thought an exhaust manifold from a straight eight might work.

It doesn’t necessarily have to come in sets of eight, used car dealer extraordinaire Steve Lang suggested chrome exhaust tips, though those would take some pretty big candles.

Being a traditionalist I’m not a huge fan of electric menorahs, but I just might make a spark plug menorah next year. Other possibilities that come to mind are a set of velocity stacks, the cylinder block to a Duesenberg SJ, or a Packard cylinder head.

Or you could just rig up eight exhaust flame throwers.

So what kind of car part would you use to make a Chanukah menorah?

 

*I’m usually a stickler for accuracy when it comes to transliterating Hebrew, but alliteration works so well in headlines.

For more on cars and car culture, please visit Cars In Depth, where this post was originally published.

Read bullet | Comments »

California Cars – How The West Was Won By Japan

Wednesday, December 21st, 2011 - by Ronnie Schreiber

Most American auto enthusiasts that were around in the late 1960s and early 1970s, even those that weren’t thrilled with big American land yachts, had little regard for Japanese cars. It wasn’t that they were small. VW Beetles were successfully advertised with the slogan “Think Small”. No, Japanese cars were just not very good. Reliable? Yes. Good? No. Underpowered, rust-prone, lacking decent automatic transmissions, and technologically not very advanced (well, with the exception of Honda), Japanese cars sold primarily on price. One would think that Japanese cars didn’t have a chance with American consumers. Over @ TTAC, commenter VanillaDude quite neatly summed up how the Japanese automakers managed to establish a beachhead in California:

California had been booming since WWII, and had gained a national prominence. It gave us many modern cultural phenomena via music and television, adding to it’s Hollywood sparkle and governor. With only three national television networks, California dominated what Americans saw in 1973. Many Americans went to bed with Johnny Carson whose move from East to West Coast never went unnoticed.

Pop music was important in 1973. Radio played Californians. To the US during this era, California was it’s future whether it was in government, aerospace, electronics, entertainment and sheer style. During the early 20th Century, Americans looked to New York City, by 1973, Americans were ready to cut up their Brooks Brothers men’s wear and relax California style. Groovy man!

So when the Japanese auto makers shoved their tin road traps onto diesel freighters and floated their wares to America, they ended up in California. At a time when Detroit was navel-diving for profits, the Japanese struck California gold.

Continue reading the complete post here.

When he’s not busy doing custom machine embroidery at Autothreads Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth and contributes to The Truth About Cars and Left Lane News

Read bullet | Comments »

R.I.P. Saab

Monday, December 19th, 2011 - by Ronnie Schreiber

Saab 96

After 64 years of making cars and 9 months of a fruitless effort to find financing to keep the company going, Saab today was declared bankrupt by a Swedish court. Swedish Automobile NV CEO Victor Muller filed for bankruptcy after former Saab owner General Motors indicated that it would exercise its veto power over any of the proposed plans to save Saab. GM owns key intellectual property that any ongoing Saab business would necessarily use. Following the GM announcement over the weekend, proposed Saab savior Zhejiang Youngman Lotus Automobile announced that it was withdrawing from the deal to provide the three quarters of a billion dollars needed to restart production in Trollhattan.

 

Continue reading the complete post here.

When he’s not busy doing custom machine embroidery at Autothreads Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth and contributes to The Truth About Cars and Left Lane News

Read bullet | Comments »

From Hot Rods to Hippies and Back: The Art of Stanley Mouse

Monday, December 19th, 2011 - by Ronnie Schreiber

If you have ever enjoyed a drawing of a wild hot rod, put together a plastic monster kit as a child, or wore a t-shirt embellished with automotive art, you probably owe a debt of gratitude to Stanley Miller, better known as Stanley Mouse, of Mouse Studios. His seminal role in hot rod culture, though, is not that well known because his early success in automotive art was greatly eclipsed by his later work associated with rock ‘n roll. In 1960s San Francisco, Mouse, on his own and with his artistic partner Alton Kelley, created concert posters and album covers that literally changed the face of commercial art. Styles and motifs that Mouse either originated or revived have become so commonplace that his influence can now be widely seen in the work of graphic artists that may not even realize they are channeling Mouse’s work.

Continue reading the complete post here.

When he’s not busy doing custom machine embroidery at Autothreads Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth and contributes to The Truth About Cars and Left Lane News

Read bullet | Comments »

Would Cars Be Allowed If They Were Just Invented?

Saturday, December 17th, 2011 - by Ronnie Schreiber

Political humorist Frank J. Fleming poses an interesting thought experiment: what if the car was not over a century old but was just invented recently? Would societies and governments permit the private, gasoline powered automobile?

Imagine if cars hadn’t been around for a century, but instead were just invented today. Is there any way they’d be approved for individual use? It’s an era of bans on incandescent bulbs; if you suggested putting millions of internal-combustion engines out there, you’d get looks like you were Hitler proposing the Final Solution.

Even aside from pollution, the government wouldn’t allow the risks to safety.

“So you’re proposing that people speed around in tons of metal? You must mean only really smart, well-trained people?”

“No. Everyone. Even stupid people.”

“Won’t millions be killed?”

“Oh, no. Not that many. Just a little more than 40,000 a year.”

“And injuries?”

“Oh . . . millions.”

There’s no way that would get approved today.

Driving is basically a grandfathered freedom from back when people cared less about pollution and danger and valued progress and liberty over safety.

Fleming’s perspective that we live in a much more constrained society is not new one, nor is it necessarily based on political ideology. Frank is on the political right. Leftist British historian A.J.P Taylor opens his English History 1914-1945 with the following passage:

Until August 1914 a sensible, law-abiding Englishman could pass through life and hardly notice the existence of the state, beyond the post office and the policeman. He could live where he liked and as he liked.

Continue reading the complete post here.

When he’s not busy doing custom machine embroidery at Autothreads Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth and contributes to The Truth About Cars and Left Lane News

Read bullet | Comments »

NTSB Chair Supports Cell Phone Ban With Lies & Obfuscation

Friday, December 16th, 2011 - by Ronnie Schreiber

The National Transportation Safety Board’s recent recommendation that all 50 states ban all cell phone (including hands-free) and personal electronic device use when driving got a lot of attention. Now it turns out that the NTSB’s chairman, Deborah Hersman, has knowingly used false statistics to promote that proposed ban. The NTSB’s recommendation came in the wake of the report on a multi-vehicle fatality accident in Gray Summuit Missouri, where texting behind the wheel was determined to be one (but not the only) contributing factor. In her opening statement to the report, which is still on the NTSB web site, Hersman said,

And it was over just like that. It happened so quickly. And, that’s what happened at Gray Summit. Two lives lost in the blink of an eye. And, it’s what happened to more than 3,000 people last year. Lives lost. In the blink of an eye. In the typing of a text. In the push of a send button.

I think that any reasonable person would agree that Chairman Hersman is implying that 3,000 people a year are killed in road accidents caused by texting. That’s simply not true.

Continue reading the complete post here.

When he’s not busy doing custom machine embroidery at Autothreads Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth and contributes to The Truth About Cars and Left Lane News

Read bullet | Comments »

R.I.P. Bert Schneider, the Godfather of the Monkeemobile

Thursday, December 15th, 2011 - by Ronnie Schreiber

Click on the image to launch a Flash player and view the photo gallery in 2D or your choice of stereo 3D formats.

Hollywood producer Bert Schneider passed away earlier this week at the age of 78. He produced some artistically and culturally notable films like “Easy Rider,” “Five Easy Pieces” and “The Last Picture Show.” He also produced tv shows that were a bit more lowbrow, including The Monkees. Now the Monkees may have been a packaged rock and roll band, the so-called “pre-fab four”, but the fact remains that Schneider hired great talent. Besides the four undeniably charismatic actors & musicians they hired to play the band, Schneider and his partner Bob Rafelson engaged the cream of Hollywood’s pop songwriters, producers and session players to back up the “band” (after the first two albums, the members of the Monkees rebelled, insisting on being allowed to do more than vocals – Michael Nesmith and Peter Tork were experienced musicians before they auditioned for the show). When it came to providing the tv series’ fictional band with wheels, Schneider turned to custom car virtuoso Dean Jeffries to create what would become the Monkeemobile, one of the most identifiable movie or tv cars that there is.

YouTube Preview Image

Continue reading the complete post here.

When he’s not busy doing custom machine embroidery at Autothreads Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth and contributes to The Truth About Cars and Left Lane News

Read bullet | Comments »

Would Ban On Cellphones and PEDs Behind the Wheel Include the Police?

Tuesday, December 13th, 2011 - by Ronnie Schreiber

No distracting electronic devices in your average police cruiser. No, not at all.

In the wake of a multi-vehicle fatality accident in Missouri that the National Traffic Safety Board blames on a driver distracted by receiving text messages behind the wheel (even though their own report indicates other errors and inattentiveness by drivers contributed to severity of the the incident) the safety agency is recommending that all 50 states ban the use of cell phones and other portable electronic devices while driving. Here is the NTSB’s recommendation in that regard:

  1. (1) Ban the nonemergency use of portable electronic devices (other than those designed to support the driving task) for all drivers; (2) use the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration model of high visibility enforcement to support these bans; and (3) implement targeted communication campaigns to inform motorists of the new law and enforcement, and to warn them of the dangers associated with the nonemergency use of portable electronic devices while driving. (H-11-XX)

The question is whether such laws will be enforced fairly and consistently for all drivers or will police get special privileges.

Continue reading the complete post here.

When he’s not busy doing custom machine embroidery at Autothreads Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth and contributes to The Truth About Cars and Left Lane News

Read bullet | Comments »

A Real Rube Goldberg Production

Monday, December 12th, 2011 - by Ronnie Schreiber

YouTube Preview Image

Webster’s New World dictionary defines Rube Goldberg as

A comically involved, complicated invention, laboriously contrived to perform a simple operation.

Dictionary.com has two definitions:

1. Having a fantastically complicated, improvised appearance: a Rube Goldberg arrangement of flasks and test tubes.

2. Deviously complex and impractical: a Rube Goldberg scheme for reducing taxes.

Rube Goldberg, though, is not just a term for a silly invention that performs the simplest task by the most complicated path, Rube Goldberg (1883-1970) was an actual person, one of the 20th century’s more popular cartoonists. It’s not well known but two great cartoonists, Goldberg and Betty Boop creator and animation pioneer Max Fleischer both spent part of their careers working in Detroit making films for the Jam Handy Organization. The Handy studios made instructional and promotional films, many of them for General Motors, primarily Chevrolet. The promotional films were distributed free of charge to theater operators, who were glad to get free content.

Continue reading the complete post here.

When he’s not busy doing custom machine embroidery at Autothreads Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth and contributes to The Truth About Cars and Left Lane News

Read bullet | Comments »

Baby You Can Drive My Car – John, Paul, George and Ringo’s Rides

Saturday, December 10th, 2011 - by Ronnie Schreiber

George Harrison's 1965 Aston Martin DB5 just sold at auction for $549,000

While John Lennon’s psychedelic painted Rolls Royce Phantom V limousine is probably what most people think about when you say “Beatle car”, all four of the fab guys had notable cars over the years, including Minis, Aston Martins and in the case of George Harrison, a collection of great cars. Paul McCartney composed Hey Jude using a tape recorder he had installed in his Aston Martin DB6. Ringo Starr drove a Mini with a Radford luxury conversion and a custom hatchback so he could load his drum kit. Harrison was a serious motorhead. His own Aston, a 1965 DB5 just sold at auction for a bit more than a half million dollars.

Continue reading the complete post here.

When he’s not busy doing custom machine embroidery at Autothreads Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth and contributes to The Truth About Cars and Left Lane News

Read bullet | Comments »

Diary of a Used Car Salesman: How To Sell A Car That Smells Like A Corpse

Friday, December 9th, 2011 - by Ronnie Schreiber

Cue the dead hooker jokes.

After pressure generated by the story going viral, a suburban Detroit car dealer has agreed to buy back a used SUV that apparently held a human corpse in it at some time. The ’06 Ford Expedition was bought last winter and as weather warmed the vehicle started to smell lot rotting flesh. The dealer, Suburban Ford, suggested that a dead animal had gotten into the car and suggested that the owner make an insurance claim. That claim resulted in a hazmat specialist determining that the smell was “of human origin”. That evidence indicated that if the smell predated the purchase it also predated the insurance policy so the claim was denied. The owners turned to a lawyer who specializes in Michigan’s “lemon law”. That same lawyer discovered that the car had been a rental at one time and was stolen three times, never disclosed to the buyer. It’s not known exactly when and under what circumstances there was a dead human body in the SUV. A lawsuit was filed in Oakland County. The dealer agreed to take the car back but indicated it will probably be sold at a wholesale auction to another dealer, passing the problem along to someone else.

We asked David McDevitt, our expert on the used car biz how he, or other dealers, get a smelly car ready for sale.

Continue reading the complete post here.

When he’s not busy doing custom machine embroidery at Autothreads Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth and contributes to The Truth About Cars and Left Lane News

Read bullet | Comments »

Is The Chevy Volt Headed For A Recall? No… At Least Not Yet

Thursday, December 8th, 2011 - by Ronnie Schreiber

There’s been a lot of misinformation about the Chevy Volt fire issue.

I was making morning rounds of my usual internet haunts and I saw a short post by Glenn Reynolds at Instapundit asking, “Is the Chevy Volt headed for a recall?”. Now I have a great deal of respect for the “blogfather”, as Prof. Reynolds is known, and when Instapundit links to my posts, traffic (and ad revenue) spike, so I’m not going to bite the hand that feeds, but there has been a lot of misinformation spread around about the Volt’s fire safety and this Instapundit post is a good example of how that particular kind of sausage gets made.

Continue reading the complete post here.

When he’s not busy doing custom machine embroidery at Autothreads Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth and contributes to The Truth About Cars and Left Lane News

Categories: Cars

Read bullet | Comments »

The Dodge Dart Returns

Tuesday, December 6th, 2011 - by Ronnie Schreiber

2013 Dodge Dart

Chrysler today announced that the replacement for the compact Dodge Caliber will be called the Dart and that the car will be based on a widened sedan version of the Alfa Romeo Giulietta. Alfa Romeo is owned, like Chrysler, by Fiat. They also released some teaser photos of the new car. Chrysler has bucked the alphanumeric trend at other carmakers, preferring to use historic model names, like Challenger and Charger. Even the 300C is a historic Chrysler model name. It was rumored that Dodge might reprise the old AMC and Hudson “Hornet” nameplate, particularly after the animated Cars movies have increased awareness of that brand name, but instead Chrysler is going to use Dart. I think that’s a great move. The Caliber was singularly uninspiring. In  contrast, my experience is that people who remember the name Dart have fond associations with it.

Continue reading the complete post here.

When he’s not busy doing custom machine embroidery at Autothreads Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth and contributes to The Truth About Cars and Left Lane News

Read bullet | Comments »

Hey Greens, You Sure You Want to Deface This Particular Statue?

Monday, December 5th, 2011 - by Ronnie Schreiber

Memorial honoring Siegfried Marcus in front of the Technische Universität, Vienna

While finding photos to illustrate a post about inventor Siegfried Marcus, I found this photo on Flickr of one of the memorials to Marcus in Vienna. The photographer had tagged it with the caption, “Siegfried is made an example of”. I think it’s safe to assume from the green peace symbol that the vandals who defaced the monument to Marcus were environmentalists eager to show their hatred for Marcus and the automobile. You see, at the base of the plinth is “Inventor of Gasoline Automobiles 1864″. Siegfried Marcus was the first person on record to power a vehicle with a gasoline engine. I suppose I could snark about the hypocrisy inherent in the vandals using ozone depleting or carbon dioxide increasing propellents in their can of green spray paint but there’s really a more curious coincidence involved in this graffiti that’s impossible to ignore, Godwin be damned.

Continue reading the complete post here.

When he’s not busy doing custom machine embroidery at Autothreads Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth and contributes to The Truth About Cars and Left Lane News

Read bullet | Comments »

How the Nazis Made Daimler & Benz the Inventors of the Automobile and Wrote Jewish Inventor Siegfried Marcus Out of History

Saturday, December 3rd, 2011 - by Ronnie Schreiber

Siegfried Marcus’ first motorcar circa 1870

With something as evolutionary as the automobile, it might be a fool’s errand to try and determine just who “invented” the car as we know it. Should we date and credit the automobile to Nicolas-Joseph Cugnot’s fardier à vapeur steam wagon of 1770, or should the timeline start with something more practical, more similar to the modern automobile? You have to start somewhere and most modern histories of the car credit Gotlieb Daimler and Carl Benz as being the auto’s inventors, with Benz’s Patent Motor Wagen usually cited as the first automobile, though as we shall see, that wasn’t always the case. Benz’s three-wheeler is considered to be so historically significant that even the replica Patent Wagens made by John Bentley Engineering in the UK from 1986-97 now fetch high five-figure prices at auction and many are in the collections of some of the finest automotive museums in the world including Mercedes-Benz’s own museum. It’s true that the Benz trike was the first practical automobile, and certainly the first that went into production and was sold, but while Benz and Daimler’s achievements were indisputable, it’s likely that the honor of being considered the automobile’s inventor was given to those German engineers after being stolen by the Nazis from Siegfried Marcus, a Jewish engineer and prolific inventor who lived and worked in Vienna.

Siegfried Samuel Marcus 1831 – 1898

Continue reading the complete post here.

When he’s not busy doing custom machine embroidery at Autothreads Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth and contributes to The Truth About Cars and Left Lane News

Read bullet | Comments »

For The Man Who Really Loves Cars!

Friday, December 2nd, 2011 - by Ronnie Schreiber

Virgil Exner Sr has been treated somewhat unfairly by history. Yes, some of the designs that he rendered himself or that he oversaw as head of Chrysler styling make the nickname “Virgil Excess” seem appropriate. His best work, though, influenced other designers and had a purity of line and a design cohesion that his contemporary designers at GM and Ford rarely matched. Though Exner had been in charge of Chrysler styling for a while, it was the 1957 “Forward Look” Chrysler, Dodge, Plymouth and DeSoto cars that were the first production cars to bear his full personal stamp. Based heavily on the Flite Sweep concepts of 1955, the ’57 Mopars created a firestorm within the auto industry, and put Chrysler at the head of the Detroit pack styling wise, briefly taking the lead from GM.

Continue reading the complete post here.

When he’s not busy doing custom machine embroidery at Autothreads Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth and contributes to The Truth About Cars and Left Lane News

Read bullet | Comments »

Drunk Driving Enforcement is a Racket

Tuesday, November 29th, 2011 - by Ronnie Schreiber

Drunk driving enforcement in this country has become a racket. It’s not about safety, it’s about money. Actually, the drive over the past two decades to lower the legal limit of alcohol for drivers has likely made traffic less safe. It has undoubtedly, though, put millions of dollars into the coffers of various jurisdictions via fines and vehicle confiscation. Additional millions have lined the pockets of police officers via overtime pay to appear in court and to man sobriety checkpoints.

Continue reading the complete post here.

When he’s not busy doing custom machine embroidery at Autothreads Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth and contributes to The Truth About Cars and Left Lane News

Read bullet | Comments »

“Thermal Events” (i.e. Fires) In Chevy Volt Crash Testing Spur NHTSA Formal Investigation

Saturday, November 26th, 2011 - by Ronnie Schreiber

YouTube Preview Image

Following a fire in a Chevy Volt battery pack that had been damaged in a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration crash test, NHTSA recently performed additional impact tests on Volt battery packs to simulate that incident. Two of the three batteries that were tested experienced what the agency calls “thermal events”, including fire. As a result, NHTSA has now opened a formal investigation into potential risks from “intrusion damage” in Volt batteries. It should be pointed out that the tests involved a very specific sequences of events. The original crash test was a 20 mph side pole impact test, followed by a post impact rollover. Chevy Volts have a sophisticated battery conditioning and temperature management system that involves liquid cooling. In the crash test the Volt battery case was penetrated and a battery coolant line was cut. Three weeks later, while the wrecked Volt was sitting in a storage lot, its battery caught fire, burning the Volt and nearby vehicles. GM now says that their own procedure in the event of a serious collision is to drain the battery’s electrical charge. That information was not shared with NHTSA and the burned Volt’s battery had not been discharged.

Continue reading the complete post here.

When he’s not busy doing custom machine embroidery at Autothreads Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth and contributes to The Truth About Cars and Left Lane News

 

Read bullet | Comments »