6 July 2007

Silly Me

Pulled up to a stoplight today behind the styling monstrosity you see above, the Toyota Camry Solara. Same colour too. Thing is, I wasn't paying attention, and slowly crept up really close behind the guy. We were on an incline at the light, so I worried briefly for a moment that the guy might be driving a stick, and if he wasn't careful, he might hit me on his takeoff. And then I woke up and realized I was behind a Camry Solara.

Silly me.

4 July 2007

The Massacre

Straight from the mouth of the horse.

GM dealers in the United States delivered 326,300 vehicles in June, down 24 percent, compared with year-ago monthly sales. The decline was partly attributed to a planned reduction of an additional 13,487 daily rental sale vehicles in the month. GM now has taken more than 92,000 daily rental vehicles out of the sales totals in 2007.
First things first- the daily rental bullshit is just that- bullshit. They were down 13,487 in daily rental sales for the month of June, but down 87,173 sales overall, so even if you take 13k sales out of that 87k figure, they're still in deep doo doo.

No Bobby and Ricky, June was one hell of a disaster month for the General.

Some of the brand highlights:

  • Buick down a solid 33% for the month, and down 28% for the year.
  • Chevy down 26.2% for the month, which accounts for a loss of about 54,000 vehicle sales for ONE MONTH for the 'volume' GM brand.
  • The Cadillac revival down over 30% for the month.
  • Saturn pulling in a 12% loss for the month, despite an almost complete vehicle lineup overhaul.

The picture gets even more depressing when you look at certain models.

For example:

  • Silverado 1/2 ton pickups were down 26% for the month, and are now down 2% for the year... and remember, this is an all new model. Their full-size brethren also suffered a 26% setback for the month.
  • The Sierra didn't do any better, down 29% of the month, and now down for the year to date as well.
  • The Aura is still selling under 5,000 units per month, putting it solidly in the 60,000 units per year category- all for a vehicle which has been pimped beyond belief to the masses... and with no buyer response.
  • The Equinox was down 50% for the month, losing 5,000 sales.
  • The G6 was down 38%, losing 7,000 sales.
  • The Cobalt was down 38%, with almost 10,000 fewer sales.
  • The Malibu was down 51%.
  • Even the once hot Solstice has fallen behind by 20% year to date versus last year.
Notice a trend here? All the volume sellers aren't doing volume!

About the only bright spots in the lineup this month were the Lambda triplets... and yet another further increase in Impala sales, which can only portend the end of the world. The biggest problem above and beyond the poor sales is this- when you take THIS ARTICLE into account, you realize that even these deflated sales numbers can be deflated further in terms of 'John Doe and his family' sales. Crazy.

Perhaps the truth is dawning on GM- the fix won't be quick. And when it arrives, the company may be long, long, long, long gone. But what do Lutz and Wagoner do? They continue to act like they're the big hosses in the barn... it's only a matter of time boys, only a matter of time.

Honda: Looking Out For The New Grads Pulling In $100k Per Year

Most car companies have new grad programs. They usually are something along the lines of 'graduate and you receive X amount of dollars off your new car purchase'. GM goes and makes 2 payments for you. The one thing they all have in common however, is that they usually exclude expensive models, and concentrate on entry models in a brand lineup.

But no, not Honda.

Honda doesn't offer the Fit to new graduates.
Honda doesn't offer the Civic to new graduates.

Honda offers their grad rebate on the Accord, CR-V, Element...and wait for it, the S2000.

Not exactly 'young grad' nirvana. Well, okay, maybe the S2000, but then again, the S2000 has a $50k Canadian sticker price. Not exactly the type of money most new grads have to put down.

Why does Honda do this? Because they can. And they're pricks.

3 July 2007

Future Scion Product: Subaru Tribeca Rebadge?

According to industry publication Automotive News, Japanese magazine New Model Magazine X recently showed a spy photo of a camouflaged vehicle that had Subaru Tribeca-like proportions and dimensions with what looked like a Scion badge on the grille. The magazine went on to speculate that Toyota would rebadge a Tribeca as a Scion to sell in the US.

Toyota has made a point of denying that it plans any additional models for the Scion brand, and sales have climbed steadily for the past several years (up 10.6% during 2006). But with Toyota owning 8.6% of Subaru's parent company, Fuji Heavy Industries - and Tribeca sales not meeting expectations in its first two years on the market (only selling 18,614 units in 2006) - anything might be possible.

My question is - how exactly would a rebadged Tribeca fit in with the rest of the Scion lineup? Scions generally come from the factory with only two different variables: manual or automatic transmission, and color. The rest of the equipment - appearance, comfort, or performance - is installed by the dealer or the owner. The most expensive 2008 Scion will be the tC coupe, at $17,580 (including destination), while a 2008 Tribeca starts at $30,620 (including destination), or 74% more money. The value proposition just seems very different between the Tribeca - arguably Subaru's flagship - and Scion. Not only that, but Toyota has taken a lot of criticism for the way the 2008 xB has grown in size, weight, and power - but seen its fuel economy decline in an environment of high gas prices. Do they really want to hear about a six cylinder, seven seat crossover from the Scion faithful?

Frankly, I don't see this happening, but if it did, it would be another fascinating case study to see how Toyota manages the marketing message, pricing, and styling of a Scion-ized Tribeca.

2 July 2007

Ford's Future Powertrain Direction

While many auto manufacturers are scratching their heads trying to decide how to meet likely new EPA fuel economy standards in the next few years, Ford thinks it has an answer. They also hope that answer will address the power shortages that some of their engines have relative to the competition (particularly their V8s, in a world where the competition has 400 and 500 horsepower, with the same or better fuel economy of Ford's current engine lineup).

Ford's solution is called Twin-Force, and it means twin turbos coupled with gasoline direct injection. Starting with the 2008 Lincoln MKS sedan, Ford intends to apply twin turbos to I4, V6, and V8 engines over the next several years, and rumor is that engine sizes and power outputs will be:
  • 260 horsepower for the 2.5 liter I4 (likely to appear in the 2009 Fusion sedan)
  • 350-420 horsepower for the 3.5 liter V6 (likely to appear in the Mustang and F150 later in 2009)
  • 400 horsepower for the possible 5.0 liter V8
  • 650 lb-ft of torque for the 6.2 liter V8 (likely to land in the F150 and Super Duty as a diesel alternative).
If the power figures appear as rumored, I'll be very impressed. Even more impressive is that Ford expects fuel efficency to be on par with contemporary diesels of similar size, but expects diesel-like fuel economy, at a lower cost because the expensive emission equipment will not be needed.

Finally, the last part of Ford's powertrain future is called a Powershift gearbox, which is similar in concept to Volkswagen's much-loved twin clutch DSG gearbox. DSGs promise less driveline loss than a conventional torque converter-equipped automatic (so better fuel economy) and faster, more direct shifts.

Giving Ford the benefit of the doubt that they actually can meet these rumored horsepower and fuel economy numbers, plus rolling out a DSG, all they'll need to get in order is a more interesting, engaging styling direction. They have the ideas (the Ford Interceptor would be a nice start), but need to actually implement them.

I was someone who questioned Ford's strategy of going with a twin turbo V6 in the upcoming Lincoln MKS rather than the Volvo-sourced V8 in the original concept car, but if a Twin-Force V6 exceeds the V8's fuel economy, and with potentially 400+ horsepower (versus about 311 for the V8), it's hard to argue with the results. The photo at the top of this post is of the Twin-Force V6 in the Lincoln MKR concept car, which was first shown at the NAIAS in Detroit in January 2007.

I wish them luck. Now let's see these engines and transmissions actually installed in production vehicles.