3 August 2007

State Of The Union Address

I was going to do this at 100 posts, but forgot. Now I'll do it at 115 posts. Yeah, I know, I promised I was out until Tuesday. This time it's really my last post until Tuesday. Promise.

First the basics.
  • Blog started March 16th, 2007
  • First day visitors-37
  • Total visitors since March 16th, 2007- 29,465
  • Lowest visitors day- 19 on April 28th, 2007
  • Highest visitors day- 9,918 on July 26th, 2007 (thank you Gorilla Mask)
Now some article stats.
And the top 10 Google keyword search term referrals.
  • 'Infiniti M37'
  • 'Infiniti FX50'
  • 'The Mags Report blogspot'
  • 'Nissan 370Z'
  • 'Infiniti EX25'
  • 'Transformers sucked'
  • 'Ford Twin Force'
  • '2009 Infiniti Q50'
  • '2008 Corvette pricing'
  • '2008 Cadillac CTS'
Some very odd Google keyword searches that resulted in blog hits.
  • 'caricatures Carroll Shelby'
  • 'admiral viscen' (WTF?)
  • 'worlds largest piece of crap' (referring to the site or a car, I'm not sure)
  • 'transformers sucked?' (I guess this searcher wasn't sure)
  • 'tiptronic machismo' (bitter anti-Porsche person)
  • 'les tripe de jackasses' (a French person who doesn't like me?)
  • 'gmc acadia is a pig' (Toyota dealer?)
  • 'mags gmi' (ha!)
The top 5 referring sites.
After that, it gets extremely dorky. As if this wasn't already.
  • IE is used by 47% of visitors. Firefox by 44%. Safari by 6%.
  • Windows is used by 88% of visitors. Mac OS by 11%. Linux by 0.66%.
  • Average time on the site is 6 minutes and 52 seconds.
So that's that. The good news is that the site is doing great and I want to thank all the contributors for being a part of this little project (even the lazy ones). The bad news is.... umm... there is no bad news.

All Hail Holidays With No Purpose!

Civic holiday long weekend for the Canadians among us (which means me). Why do we get it? I don't know. I just know I'm off till Tuesday. I'm sure Firebird et al will keep you occupied in the meantime.

The Pontac G6 Is Being Treated Like A Red Headed Stepchild

Almost one year after handing over the keys to my G6 GT, I decided to take a gander at the 2008 ordering lists to see if GM had decided to rectify any of the numerous shortcomings that the vehicle possessed.

A review of those shortcomings:

  • Brutal looking center stack.
  • Horrifically bad head unit for the stereo.
  • An utter lack of storage space.
  • Chrometech wheels standard on GT versions.
  • 4 speed automatic in everything short of a GTP.
The vehicle, having been released in 2004, was due for at least a refresh, right? Especially in light of the fact that the Malibu and Aura have upped the ante for GM midsizers.

So what did I see what I visited the 2008 ordering list?

  • The same stereo head unit.
  • The same center stack.
  • The same lack of storage space.
  • The same wheel options.
  • The same 4 speed automatic in everything short of the GXP (no more GTP).
On the plus side, here ARE the changes made:

  • All the airbags are finally standard.
  • ABS and traction control are now standard across the board.
  • Some new colours replacing some old colours.
  • Shitty GT and GXP appearance packages available.
  • Minor package changes.

I'm in awe of the stupidity at play here. The Aura and the 9-3, two other vehicles based off of the Epsilon architecture, have received generous helping of refinement and improvements. And both sell jack squat. The G6, a true volume seller for GM (albeit mainly to fleet at this point) receives bupkiss. Nothing except some basic safety upgrades. In fact, the EASIEST change, the center stack and the radio issue, has been neglected as well for some reason.

Is GM really trying to kill Pontiac? Is there some exec at the Ren Center who has seen Saw a few too many times?

2 August 2007

VW City Expert Coming to Frankfurt This Fall

Volkswagen is set to unveil a new mini car at the Frankfurt Auto Show this fall called the City Expert. The car is primarily designed for emerging markets, and will be designed to be low-cost, low-weight, and simple to manufacture.

VW has not released any teaser images of the new car, but on paper, it sounds a lot more like a true successor to the original VW Beetle than the current New Beetle has been, primarily because it will be rear engined and driven by (at most) a three-cylinder engine. Some developing markets will get only two-cylinder versions, while a one-cylinder version (which likely sounds like a lawn tractor) are also under consideration.

Because of cost constraints (and thanks to the vehicle's low weight), power steering will not be available. The City Expert will likely include both front and rear cargo areas (only the air conditioning unit, radiator, and battery are in front of the driver).

VW is uncertain as to whether the City Expert will be sold in North America; no doubt, they are closely watching the Smart ForTwo's US launch in early 2008 (more information here and here on the Smart ForTwo) to see how that similarly-configured car fares in the US before making a decision. The City Expert is, however, expected to be sold in Western Europe, and I'm guessing if the styling and pricing are right, could prove to be a formidable competitor to the Dacia Logan, discussed extensively here.

I can't wait to see this car, although I don't expect it to look anything like the Beetle. Now, if only Volkswagen could do something about the name, which sounds ridiculous to me.

1 August 2007

What to Eat While Driving

Many of us, even though we probably know better, occasionally find ourselves consuming a few calories while driving. Fast food chains and coffee merchants do a brisk business every morning selling caffeinated drinks, pastries, bagels, muffins, scones, and sandwiches to individuals who don't have time to eat breakfast at home and want to catch a few bites and sips in the car.

There are several reasons NOT to eat while driving - primary among those is the distraction factor; not only would spilling hot coffee, or ketchup, on your lap while driving divert your attention from the road, but even reaching for another french fry, or wiping grease from your hands could be a dangerous distraction. Safety concerns aside, it's a little uncouth to have a pile of crumbs on your shirt and lap, greasy fingers (which you probably didn't wash before chowing down), and spilled coffee, milk, ketchup, mustard, mayonnaise, or whatever else on your upholstery and carpets. In fact, the result might be an expensive detailing bill at best, or a lowered resale value at trade-in time at worst.

The above being said, if you are going to eat and drink while you drive, some foods are more suited to the task than others. Therefore, in no particular order, here are the top ten foods to eat while driving.

Taco Bell Crunchwrap Supreme. The Crunchwrap Supreme is literally designed for people to eat while driving. Since Taco Bell does 60% of its business through the drive-through window, they knew that customers were eating while driving. They figured the best way to make those customers happy was with "a warm, soft, flour tortilla filled with seasoned beef, warm nacho cheese sauce, a crunchy tostada shell, cool sour cream, lettuce and tomatoes and then wrapped up and grilled for maximum portability."

Kellogg's Pop Tarts. The yummy quarter inch thick rectangular toaster pastries taste better when they're toasted, but also taste fine right out of the package. They're also relatively easy to eat one-handed in the car.

Dunkin Donuts. This one makes the list with a word of caution, however - stick with the varieties that don't have a soft filling (no jelly, custard, or cream filling), and messier donuts with thick frosting should be avoided, because you will almost certainly need to clean your hands afterward, which is its own distraction. A plain, or reasonably plain, donut should be fine and safe, however.

Candy Bar.
As long as you keep the part you're holding in the wrapper (eliminating problems from melting chocolate on your hands), you should be fine. Stick with larger bars, though, as they are easier to handle and give you more surface area to hold while eating them.

Lance Crackers six pack.
Once you tear open the package (which is pretty simple to do), there are six mini cracker sandwich squares with cheese, peanut butter, or some other tasty filling. For the most part, they stay together and if you have a big mouth, you can put the whole "sandwich" in there in a single bite.

Bottled water. Water is the safest drink while driving - if it spills onto your lap, you won't be burned, and if it spills onto your upholstery, it won't be stained. On top of that, it's also probably one of the healthiest beverages you can drink, and if it's in a bottle, is a very low-risk activity.

Soft Pretzel. The favorite snack of Philadelphia is also portable and easy to eat with one hand. Be sure to have something to drink, though, because they can really dry your mouth, making them difficult to swallow and a potential choking hazard.

Apple slices. Eating an entire apple might be a little difficult - especially if it obscures your vision before the first bite. Then, there's the question of what to do with the core. A solution is to pre-slice a fresh apple in the morning before leaving for work, discard the core, and put the slices into a sandwich bag. Since the core is gone, you can eat the entire contents of the bag with no mess.

Beef jerky. It takes some chewing, and is also nice to have water on hand when eating it, but beef jerky is easy to eat one-handed and dropped pieces can easily be vacuumed off of the floor and seat.

100 calorie snack packs. These come in many varieties, including Cheetos, Doritos, Oreos, Butterfingers, Ritz Sandwiches, and more, and are in a simple pack. Once you open the bag, put it into an empty cupholder or on your lap, and reach into the bag without looking for your next mouthful. When you get to the end of the bag, if it's safe to do so, you can dump the crumbs into your mouth. I recommend only trying that if your vehicle is stopped.

Another small piece of advice for eating while driving: more than likely, you WILL have crumbs on your lap after you are finished. To keep them off of your seat and floor, when you exit your vehicle, swing your legs to the outside of the car before standing up, keeping your knees together. Then, simply stand up while brushing off your legs and shirt, and nearly all of the crumbs should be on the ground outside of your vehicle.

There are plenty of good reasons NOT to eat while driving, but if you're going to anyway (and most of us are), at least choose your menu wisely. Did I miss any good ones (tasty, safe, easy to eat, not messy)? If so, please comment.


This can't possibly be true!

But nonetheless, is:

Toyota Motor Sales (TMS), U.S.A., Inc., today reported July sales of 224,058 vehicles, a decrease of 3.5 percent from July 2006.

"The industry stumbled this month, on continued housing weakness," said Jim Lentz, TMS executive vice president. "Though Toyota didn't match last July's record–setting sales, heightened demand for hybrids and crossovers is reassuring, particularly with the next generation Highlander just now hitting showrooms."

The Toyota Division posted July sales of 196,917, down 4.5 percent from last July. The Lexus Division reported best-ever July sales of 27,141 units, an increase of 4.9 percent.

Looks like the boogieman for this month will be 'housing weakness'. Let's take a closer look at the bad:

  • The Avalon is very quickly becoming an also-ran in the segment, down almost 15% on the year.
  • The Corolla FINALLY appears to be losing its legs. It only took 6 years.
  • The Lexus GS continues to be mediocre in terms of sales- and look closely- a miniscule percentage of GS' sold are the V8 or hybrid versions.
  • The 4Runner, Sequoia and Sienna are all in major need of redesigns.
  • The Lexus trucks are in horrific sales shape.
On the plus side:

  • The Camry continues to lead the way.
  • The Prius is going absolutely nuts with its newfound capacity- surpassing 100k sales YTD this month.
  • The Lexus LS is all of a sudden looking like a 40k a year vehicle.
  • The Tundra continues to steamroll along, hitting over 23k in sales this month.
So, some good, and some bad. With a new Corolla in the wings, I doubt Toyota is all that concerned about that end of the market. Of more concern should be he doughy middle that is the Lexus lineup- the low end and the high end do great- but once you look at the trucks and the GS, things really start looking ugly.

On The Moon, Ford Gets Spanked With Moon Rocks

Oh boy, things don't look good.

  • Ford Motor Company's all-new and redesigned crossovers were up 40 percent in July; year-to-date sales also up 40 percent.
  • Overall sales totaled 195,245, down 19 percent compared with a year ago; daily rental sales were down 57 percent and sales to individual retail customers were down 17 percent.
  • Lincoln registers tenth month in a row of higher retail sales.
  • All-new Ford Expedition gains for the eleventh month in a row; Lincoln Navigator was up 8 percent.
  • Land Rover sales rose 19 percent, reflecting all-new LR2.

So after a horrific June, Ford has followed up with a horrific July. At least the Edge is doing well. Up 40 percent over last year.... when they were just rolling off the assembly lines. I do give kudos to Ford for burying the 19 percent down in the second bullet. Bravo spinmasters!

Some more specific ass paddlings:

  • The 'new' Taurus and leftover Five Hundred models COMBINED couldn't reach the sales of last years Five Hundred.
  • The Fusion has taken a beating for 2 straight months now, almost erasing the sales gains it had made YTD, which are now at a meagre 3.9%.
  • The Mustang continues to slide, despite what appears to be 326 different special editions out there- it is not about 12% down for the year.
  • F-Series trucks are in deep doo doo.
  • The engine enhancements to the MKZ haven't really amounted to much of a sales bump- only 5.5% YTD.
On the positive side:

  • The Sable is actually doing pretty well.
  • The Expedition is actually doing pretty damn well in the face of some serious competition.
Honestly, it's really hard to tell what the hell Ford has to do in order to get this ship righted. The all new Escape has barely had an impact. Good cars like the Fusion just aren't selling in the volumes they need to make a dent. The Taurus/Five Hundred fiasco- nuff said. The trucks are under heavy attack until the next gen F-Series can make a debut. Is something like the Flex really the answer? The company is in a rut, and frankly, I have no idea what they can do to get out of it. They need time more than anything, and they simply don't have it.

31 July 2007

Diesel Accord To Get 62 MPG?

So it's not gospel yet, but an intrepid listener at The Car Lounge reports that radio host Paul Harvey had the following information on the next generation Accord, which will have a diesel engine option at some point. Further info as well at CNET News.

  • Runs as clean as a Prius
  • Gets 62.8 MPG
  • Is bio-diesel compatible
The big question- mixed or highway driving? But then again, that number is impressive either way. Probably the even bigger question- how much?

The most interesting story in the automotive industry during the next 5 years will be which technology for greater fuel economy wins out. Will it be some variant of the Prius as we know it right now? Toyota has the overwhelming lead in the market, and is just hitting their stride. Will it be something like the Volt from GM? I'd think battery technology will have to make some incredible strides for that to be a possibility in the near future. Or will it be diesel? Honda among others, has essentially thrown their hat into this ring, and with almost daily advances in diesel tech, plus the availability of clean disel in North America, it might be an option.

Or will it be a mixture of all of them? A plug in hybrid based on the Prius that has battery tech from the Volt that can run on diesel (or biodiesel).

Another One Bites The Dust

And by 'another one bites the dust', I mean 'another one joins The Mags Report'.

Welcome to Sobe, a former contributor at the hallowed grounds of GMI, and now doing his thing at FoMoCoNews.com , the website to be for all of your Ford needs. You know, like repairs and quality control, bland vehicles, a company on the brink of bankruptcy, and absolutely no semblance of design prowess.

As always, if you like writing about cars, feel free to contact me at magforce@gmail.com.

Profiles In Coolness

Alexis Stewart. Martha's daughter that is. She drives an Aston Martin DB9 and is a Skip Barber alumnus... how cool is that? She's about 40 years old but still looks HOT, I mean for those who like that. She co-hosted the "Whatever" radio show on her mom's Sirius station with another old bimbo and guest stars every once in a while on the Howard Stern Show where she curses like a sailor and describes herself as "cunty", we guess to embarrass her mom in public. To top it all she owns a co-op in the Tribeca area. Did I mention she drives a DB9?

Eat your heart out Paris, you are too dumb to ever be this cool, and she is not an ex-con... just the daughter of one. I like your SLR better than her DB9 though.

30 July 2007

Robert DeNiro Is Not Selling Cars

Gorilla Mask
with the link.

Toyota Announces New Prius Pricing

From the mouth of the super fun happy time true American glorious horse-

The fuel-efficient 2008 Prius is a better value this year with an expanded lineup to include a lower-priced, new standard model. The base MSRP for Prius ranges from $20,950 for the newly introduced standard model to $23,220 for the Touring model. The total Prius average MSRP increases $150 or 0.7 percent.

Last I checked, they sold almost 18,000 of these things last month with the supply chains opened up versus previous years. With this price drop, how long before we see 25,000 per month, and 300,000 per year? Toyota must be laughing all the way to the bank as they've now matured their technology and are well on their way to mass market acceptance with the Prius- what was once a fringe car with a loud following mostly due to pricing and supply constraints can now be bought by just about anyone out there. Meanwhile the competition is either licensing their stuff from Toyota (hi Nissan!), proceeding VERY slowly (hi Ford!), doing nothing (hey there Chrysler, Hyundai, et al!), bowing out of the market altogether (we can see you Honda!) or just now releasing a relevant competitor in higher priced vehicles while touting future technology that is still at a minimum 2 years away (hey there GM!).

And no one has even mentioned the real elephant in the room for everyone else- Prius, The Brand.

I Think Nissan May Be Having A Tough Time Selling The Titan And The Sentra

Yes. It looks like only a few vehicles are being offered.
Yes. It's worth only about $200 a month at most for 24 months, meaning about $4800 total in 'cost' to the dealership.
Yes. It's just a clever way of not putting money on the hood.

No. It's not a good idea.

Bob Lutz Drives New Malibu- Shockingly, Likes It

The Saturn Aura took North American Car of the Year honors last year. The Malibu is right there. Of course, that's me speaking, and I may be biased! We'll see what the media have to say. Let us know what you think… more info on the Malibu can be found at here.
More blathering by the czar right here.

So you don't say? Bob Lutz thinks the next 'Bu' is a fantastic machine. Shocking. In other news, Ferrari believes the Enzo is the best sports car in the world, and BMW thinks that the new M3 is the best all around entry level luxury sedan in the world.

People actually take this stuff seriously?