car blog, a blog about cars

The View Through The Windshield
A Blog About Cars ... and Everything Else I See
by Joe Sherlock
This blog is about cars, automobiles and more.

Friday March 30, 2007

Why Porsche Is Buying Volkswagen Stock: You've probably read that Porsche is increasing its stake in Volkswagen AG, maker of the Beetle, Golf and Jetta, "in a move aimed at keeping the company firmly in German hands." Porsche AG said it is increasing its stake in Volkswagen from 27.3% to 31%.

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Here's my take - Porsche models have always depended heavily on Volkswagen's parts bins. As Porsche expands its product line to include sedans and other Porsche-badged vehicles, it will be bumping heads in the marketplace with vehicles made by Volkswagen AG - Bentley, Audi, Lamborghini, et al.

At some point, VW's top management is going to ask, "Why are we helping a competitor by supplying them with components and subcomponents?"

Porsche AG wants the answer to be, "Because they're a big stockholder, dummy."

auto blogWhole Foods Hauler: Andrea Harris on automobiles: "Cynicism doesn't have to actually be tied to action; it is merely a pose. Thus the spectacle of ostentatiously authority-mistrusting crowds slavishly hanging onto Al Gore's every word on global warming and running obediently to the car lot to bargain on a Prius, which will get no better mileage than a non-electric car with manual transmission (which will have less dangerous heavy metals in its makeup and also have more trunk space for those Whole Foods grocery bags)."

I'm going to cut Andrea some slack here, even though she doesn't own a car. After all, I'm not a vegan but I still make fun of them. Same for Diehard Liberals. (No, that doesn't refer to liberals with Sears batteries in their cars.)

Bulking Up To Kill: Dave Leggett reports that a supplier source says that the Land Rover Freelander "weighs over 2.5 tonnes and was deliberately weighted up to exceed 2.5 tonnes because below that weight vehicles have to comply with tougher pedestrian impact rules. Freelander couldn't meet those, so they made it heavier to avoid having to comply."

You Can Buy Anything on eBay: See here. If you only want to buy a piece of it, read this. (hat tip - Tom McMahon)

Wheeeeee! The Comet, an HO-scale roller coaster, is sooooooo cool. I just wish they made it in O-gauge.

the view through the windshieldWhatever Happened To ... ? I saw Jerry Lee Lewis in concert on a PBS special a couple of weeks ago. He looks like he's 111 years old and can hardly walk. He shuffles like someone in the special care unit of a senior center.

This is what happens when you fuse three candles together and burn 'em at all six ends. He's had six wives, including his 13 year-old cousin. A couple have died under questionable circumstances. In 1975, he shot his bassist.

He's overdone alcohol and pills (paging Dr. Nichopoulos), fought with the IRS and been detained for trying to break into Graceland.

By the way, the infamous Dr. Nick (of Elvis fame) lost his medical license in 1995 for bad conduct, including writing too many prescriptions for Jerry Lee Lewis. (Now in his 80s, George Nichopoulos works as a benefits adviser for FedEx in Memphis.)

As for Jerry Lee, "He rarely tours, preferring to watch 'Gunsmoke' marathons at his ranch near Memphis that some people call 'Disgraceland.' He hadn't put out an album in 11 years. Of all the legends who came out of Sun Records in the 1950s – Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, Roy Orbison - no one would have bet the last one standing would be the pill-popping, whiskey-guzzling, gun-waving hellion from Ferriday, LA." (permalink)

But Where's Apu? Several 7-11 stores are going to be refurbished as Kwik-E-Marts to coincide with The Simpsons movie. Customers also will be able to buy products inspired by the nearly two-decades-old show, including Krusty-O's cereal, Buzz Cola and Squishees (the cup says Squishee, but the contents will be Slurpee).

Political Quote Of The Week is from Sacha Zimmerman: "'The Hill' reports that 50 percent of adults would not vote for Hillary Clinton. Lucky for Clinton, most adults don't vote."

Well, Nobody Told Me: March must be 'Dig 'Em Up Month' in the U.S. First it was The Big Bopper.

Now, a descendant of Harry Houdini wants his body exhumed to test a theory that the famed escape artist was murdered 81 years ago.

Who's next? JFK? Oliver Stone, grab a shovel.

Quote Of The Day is from Thomas Sowell: "When the University of California system and the California State University system raised their tuitions, the headline in the San Francisco Chronicle read: "UC, CSU Reach Again for Students' Wallets." Apparently you are only supposed to reach for the taxpayers' wallets."

Wednesday March 28, 2007

Get A Life. An English car owner bought a new Vauxhall Astra and then spent over $7,000 (!!!) having it detailed to perfection. As Mr. Rogers would have asked, "Can you say Obsessive Compulsive Disorder?"

sherlock auto blogI loved the various comments posted: "Clearly a complete twit with too much time on his hands." And: "He looks gay anyway. I very much doubt anyone who spends that much time cleaning their car would have an 'other half'."

As I was perusing the excruciatingly photo-documented and minutiae-filled account of the multi-step, multi-week process, I was thinking, "The first time that Astra gets a healthy dose of bird crap dropped on it, its owner will have a fatal stroke."

In the spirit of full disclosure, I must confess that I did wash the Jag on Monday during a sunny patch. It was quite dirty and really needed it. But it was a pretty basic 20-minute hose-lather-rinse-and-dry clean up as on-and-off rain is forecast for the rest of the week.

How Sad: Chevrolet is planning to badge a crossover (car-based SUV) with the Nomad name in 2009. The 1955-57 Nomads were a big hit when introduced and have become legends in the old car hobby.

At the '04 Detroit show, GM unveiled Chevy Nomad concept car (based on the Solstice platform) which was pretty cool. But an SUV - ugh.

Just another downward step into the pit for GM.

Update: Now the Nomad SUV story is being refuted. Where does the truth lie? Who knows?

Words Of Wisdom from Jerry Flint: "When you think about Detroit's chances for survival, keep these things in mind: 1) Cutting costs isn't turning around; 2) reducing the dollar losses isn't turning around; and 3) even moving to the financial black from the red isn't turning around."

"Turning around means selling more cars and trucks instead of fewer cars and trucks. It's making volume gains over the year before. It's gaining market share instead of losing market share. And one month of gains isn't enough. Too many factors can affect one month, such as incentive programs or a particularly bad period the year before. Two months is better, but three months tells the story. If sales volume and market share are growing for three months, it's a turnaround."

"Unless sales climb, unless market share grows, the story repeats itself. It's an endless cycle leading to … well, Studebaker, Packard, Nash, Hudson, Willys and Kaiser."

Hot Air: Does that phrase make you think of Al Gore? Me too. Ann Coulter quipped, "The only place Al Gore conserves energy these days is on the treadmill. I don't want to suggest that Al's getting big, but the last time I saw him on TV I thought, 'That reminds me - we have to do something about saving the polar bears.'"

And: "Never mind his carbon footprint - have you seen the size of Al Gore's regular footprint lately? It's almost as deep as Janet Reno's. ... Gore may have a small carbon footprint, but he has a huge carbon butt-print."

An NRO reader summarized it well: Gore said, "If your baby has a fever, you go to the doctor. If the doctor says you need to intervene here, you don't say, 'Well, I read a science fiction novel that told me it's not a problem.' If the crib's on fire, you don't speculate that the baby is flame retardant. You take action."

"A more accurate analogy would be that the smoke detector is beeping indicating not that the house is on fire but that it needs a new battery and Al Gore wants to throw your baby out the window."

Speaking Of Global Warming ... I'm told that if you're sucking on an ice cube when farting, it's considered 'carbon neutral'.

sherlock auto blogHoly Crap! Bud's Dead. Comic actor Calvert DeForest, known to millions of late-night Letterman Show viewers as Larry 'Bud' Melman, died last week at 85.

I always thought he was the non-cartoon version of The Simpson's Hans Moleman.

Quote Of The Day is from James Lileks: "If pizza were meant to have pineapple, it would come from Hawaii. Jack Lord would deliver it. Wearing a grass skirt."

Monday March 26, 2007

Car Container: I have seen a preview rendering of the Ford Flex. It looks like a 1971 International Harvester Travelall. Or the box that the 1988 Taurus wagon came in.

This is progress?

Sad Ending: If you want some insight on the state of design in Detroit today, read this tragic tale. Be sure to peruse the comments posted at the end of the article.

Whatever Happened To ... ? Paul and Anita Lienert, the husband-and-wife automotive writing team, who used to review cars for the Detroit News, are no longer doing so. Their column, 'He Drove; She Drove', was always interesting to me, even when I didn't agree with their conclusions.

Paul and Anita always listed his/her likes/dislikes for every model tested. Their dialogue-style reviews were crisp and breezy.

A poster on GM Source says they were fired but I wonder if the whole thing is part of an economy move by the Detroit News. I've noticed that their auto coverage seems sparser than it was, say, a year ago. Perhaps in an era of falling newspaper revenues, cuts were made and the Lienerts were just part of an overall slash n' burn.

Tofu-Tech: Dan Neil describes the Toyota Prius as "the hybrid shuttlecraft with more green cachet than macrobiotic tofu."

"Hello, Baby": I remember The Day The Music Died; I was a sophomore in high school. On February 3, 1959, I heard the news on the morning radio: Richie Valens, Buddy Holly and The Big Bopper had perished in a plane crash.

Fast forward to today. Forest Lawn Cemetery in Beaumont Texas wanted to move The Big Bopper's gravesite to a more visible location with a life-size statue and historic marker. The Bopper's only offspring - a son who was yet unborn when his father died - decided to have the remains examined to put to rest rumors about some Great Plane Crash Conspiracy (Thank you, internet) and to view his dad's body. ... (more>>>)

Flaming Camp: Last week, Garrison Keillor wrote about societal changes: "I grew up the child of a mixed-gender marriage that lasted until death parted them, and I could tell you about how good that is for children, and you could pay me whatever you think it's worth. Back in the day, that was the standard arrangement. Everyone had a yard, a garage, a female mom, a male dad, and a refrigerator with leftover boiled potatoes in plastic dishes with snap-on lids. ... "

"The country has come to accept stereotypical gay men - sardonic fellows with fussy hair who live in over-decorated apartments with a striped sofa and a small weird dog and who worship campy performers and go in for flamboyance now and then themselves. If they want to be accepted as couples and daddies, however, the flamboyance may have to be brought under control. Parents are supposed to stand in back and not wear chartreuse pants and black polka-dot shirts. That's for the kids. It's their show."

Keillor later issued an apology to gays who were offended and complained. Personally, I think only the hypersensitive and über-flamboyant ones would take issue. The rest of the world - gay and straight - knows that when you have kids, it's time to settle down, grow up and let all the "acting like kids" be done by ... ummmm ... kids.

To those who were angered and upset by Keillor's purely tongue-in-cheek remarks, I say, "Grow up."

Quote Of The Day is from Greg Gutfeld: "I feel both useless and inefficient - kind of like a turbine wind farm."

Friday March 23, 2007

automobile blogName Game: Buick is going to resurrect the 'Super' moniker for some models. Introduced in 1940 and used until 1958, the Super was positioned just above the low-rent, entry-level Buick Special. It generally used the same shorter wheelbase as the Special and offered a slightly higher level of trim.

While the Super was usually the best-selling Buick model, its name didn't have the cachet of the more powerful Buick Century or the top-of-the-line Roadmaster.

The Detroit News quotes Buick general manager Steve Shannon saying that plans for the coming months include reviving the 'Super' designation "used on high-performance models of the 1950s."

If this isn't a misquote, it is just one more example of Detroit marketing hotshots who don't know what they're talking about. In the 1950s, the high-performance model was the Century, not the Super. Typically, the Century combined the light, short-wheelbase body of the Buick Special model with the powerful Roadmaster engine. The 'hot-rod' Century offered the best power-to-weight ratio of any Buick and was nicely finished with interior trim levels equal to or better than the Super.

Incidentally, the 'Century' designation was first used in the 1930s, christening the first Buick model that could top 100 mph. In Buick-speak, Century always carried an aura of speed and performance. By comparison, Super was not really super at all - just ordinary.

My real problem with the name chosen is that the only people who remember the Buick Super are old geezers (like me). And that shouldn't be Buick's target market. Judging from the people I see driving Buicks on the road, they already own that market. And, even for geezers, the 'Super' moniker has no magic to it. I would have chosen 'Wildcat' or 'Limited' or 'Gran Sport'. Or 'Century'.

Regarding the Super, Mike Spinelli of Jalopnik quips: "Will it save the company? Who knows. But it might reduce the age of its average buyer by a few critical years. Sixty would be nice."

Husky Vocals: I'm happy to report that, after almost a week of laryngitis, I'm getting my voice back. It's still kinda throaty and, if anyone wants to give me a blonde wig, I can do a pretty mean imitation of Rita Cosby. You should hear me say, "Anna Nicole."

Dude Looks Like A ... No, Wait: The granddaughter of NASCAR cofounder Edgar Otto was arrested on a charge of impersonating a sheriff's deputy after she pulled over a driver, ordered him out of his car and handcuffed him.

Police quizzed a woman in the passenger seat of Rachel Otto's gray BMW. She said she had been living for the past week with Otto, whom she thought was a man.

When another police officer showed up, he recognized Otto, who has been arrested at least nine times since 2004, and listened as she explained she was making a citizen's arrest for road rage.

sherlock auto blogAncient Language: John W. Backus, who assembled and led the IBM team that created Fortran, the first widely used programming language, which helped open the door to modern computing, has died at age 82.

Fortran, released in 1957, was "the turning point" in computer software, much as the microprocessor was a giant step forward in hardware, according to J.A.N. Lee, a leading computer historian.

Innovation, Mr. Backus said, was a "constant process of trial and error."

I used to program in Fortran during my college years long, long ago.

Headline Of The Week is from Broken Newz: 'Let Gays Adopt: We Need More People Who Can Dance'.

Wednesday March 21, 2007

Two Interesting Car Quotes ... in one article: The first is from automotive consultant James Womack: "The most important management task at Toyota these days is to manage the decline of the domestics."

The second is from John McCormick of the Detroit News: "It's fair to say that the UAW has written its own death warrant with its inflexible attitude over the last 20 years." Hmmmm. That's a pretty brave statement coming from a Detroit paper - right in the UAW's home town. Bet there will be some canceled subscriptions over it. Nevertheless, John McCormick is right.

Pray For Cathy Seipp ... and her family, especially her daughter/caregiver, Maia. Cathy is a wonderful and witty writer, a regular contributor to National Review. I always enjoyed her appearances on Dennis Miller's old CNBC show. She has been battling lung cancer for over five years; she never smoked, never lived with smokers and has no family history of lung cancer.

As I write this, Cathy is hospitalized and has taken a steep downward turn for the worse. (Update: Cathy died Wednesday afternoon. Requiescat In Pace.)

Well Said. Vasko Kohlmayer, an immigrant living in the U.S, addresses his fellow immigrants: "Almost every day someone from our midst comes up with new demands and then grumbles when these are not met. In addition to requesting benefits of various kinds, many repudiate their host culture and insist that natives conform to their ways. There are even those who refuse to learn the English language and then chide their hosts for not accommodating their linguistic peculiarities. When they meet with resistance or difficulties they protest and complain, tossing about the charges of cultural insensitivity, discrimination or worse."

"It is safe to say that this ungracious attitude would not be tolerated anywhere else in the world. That it has been in America is due to the matchless amity of her people who try their best to satisfy the desires of their guests. But as criticisms and complaints grow more and more unreasonable, the situation is reaching the point of becoming intolerable."

"Being an immigrant myself let me say something that needs to be said, but which Americans - the genial hosts that they are - are reluctant to do: If you do not like it here, you should seriously think about going back to where you came from."

"Despite its share of problems, America is by almost any objective measure the greatest country that has ever been. Let us, therefore, be continually thankful for the incredible privilege of being allowed to live here. And above all, let us learn how to love her, for if there ever was a country that merits the love of its people, it surely must be America. She deserves it especially from those us who arrived as aliens, but whom she nevertheless so graciously accepted as her own." (hat tip - Relapsed Catholic)

How The Hell Will They Ever Pronounce It? Yahoo plans to launch a Chinese version of Flickr.

Definition Of The Day is for 'Raisin': A grape with sunburn.

Monday March 19, 2007

Special Thanks ... to Tom McMahon who made today Joe Sherlock Day. Please visit Tom's site. It's chock full of interesting, neat and funny stuff.

Smart? Or Not? The Smart ForTwo coupe is now being sold in nearby Vancouver, WA by Carr Motors - a downtown Cadillac-Pontiac-GMC dealer. 28 Mercedes-built Smart cars hit Carr's showroom last week, closing a rapidly arranged deal that gave Carr's staff little prep time. There was no advance marketing or advertising. Nevertheless, curious consumers have found the cars despite the lack of publicity and three cars were sold in the first four days.

The Mercedes model being sold at Carr is imported by G&K Automotive Conversion of Santa Ana, CA. G&K retrofits the cars to meet federal safety standards. The sale price starts at $25,900 and goes up to about $30,000 for a convertible model. The Smart weighs 1,600 pounds, is eight feet long, has a 61 horsepower gas engine and a claimed top speed of 84 mph. Fuel efficiency is estimated at 55-60 mpg.

Consumer Reports tested a diesel Smart ForTwo last year, remarking that it "was the worst vehicle we've experienced in many years."

Truckin': Gas is supposed to top $3.00 per gallon around here soon. Regular is already over $2.85 and premium is in the $3.05-3.15 range. I bet that'll make Prius sales go up. And F-150 sales go down. I hope contractors and subs will soon wise up and buy smaller pickups, vans and SUVs. That's what is done in Europe and big buildings still seem to go up. When picking up large loads, people over there use a trailer. Or have stuff delivered to the jobsite.

sherlock autoblogOf course, some U.S. contractors will bitch about the lower towing/hauling capacity of smaller vehicles. I'd like to posit that an abused and continuously-overloaded Toyota pickup's four-cylinder engine will still outlast a babied Ford Powerstroke motor.

Look at the news footage from any Third World country to see how badly a small Toyota pickup can be beaten and still survive.

Every contractor should try driving a smaller pickup. If, after a week, it does the job but they still feel that something big is missing in their lives, maybe they should keep the smaller truck and buy one of those penis-extender pumps.

Hot Topic: Thomas Sowell writes about 'The Great Global Warming Swindle', a documentary from the BBC: "There is no question that the globe is warming but it has warmed and cooled before, and is not as warm today as it was some centuries ago, before there were any automobiles and before there was as much burning of fossil fuels as today."

"The BBC documentary goes into some of the many factors that have caused the earth to warm and cool for centuries, including changes in activities on the sun, 93 million miles away and wholly beyond the jurisdiction of the Kyoto treaty. According to these climate scientists, human activities have very little effect on the climate, compared to many other factors, from volcanoes to clouds."

Here's the money shot: "Academics who jump on the global-warming bandwagon are far more likely to get big research grants than those who express doubts - and research is the lifeblood of an academic career at leading universities."

Best Story Of The Week (So Far): Courtesy of NRO ... "A North Pole expedition meant to bring attention to global warming was called off after one of the explorers got frostbite."

Is There An Extra Discount If You Show Your AARP Card? A brothel in Germany hopes to capitalize on the growing number of retirees interested in ''matinee'' sex by offering them a 50 percent discount during the afternoon hours. It only applies to people 66 and above.

Quote Of The Day is from Conan O'Brien on Norway: "Sweden has Ikea, Finland has Nokia... Hey Norway, what do you have? Nothing-kia!"

Wednesday March 14, 2007

Future Cars: My good friend and fellow car nut, Ray, wrote last week, "I think Chrysler will be jettisoned by Daimler, Ford will crash and GM will implode."

Is he right? I dunno, but I think that 10 years from now, many of the nameplates we have all known and more-or-less loved will be gone. Or be unrecognizable. Or be made/owned by someone unexpected.

It is plausible to me that the Koreans might buy Jaguar from a desperate Ford. Make the two top end models in England - a big sedan and a sports tourer. Then offer Asian-made lesser Jags as showroom filler.

I think Mercury will disappear - maybe Lincoln too. I also believe Dodge will fade away - leaving only Chrysler and Jeep - and those brand names may be owned by an unfamiliar company.

There will, I believe, still be a Chevy and a Cadillac but perhaps no other GM brands. Bye-bye Buick and Pontiac. Saturn may be rebranded as Opel. I see Corvette as a stand-alone brand and, if GM needs money badly enough, they might sell Corvette to some investment firm. Vettes could be assembled pretty much anywhere and V-8 crate motors will always be available - maybe even from a non-GM source under license.

I predict the UAW will go away or be a shadow of itself. The Big 2.5 (2.2? 2.1 anyone?) will either use bankruptcy or some form of asset transfer to rid themselves of union, pension and dealership obligations.

Honda, Toyota and Nissan will have over 50% of the U.S. market within 10 years. They now have a little over 30% (Honda - 9.1%, Toyota - 15.4% and Nissan - 6.2%). And will offer mostly non-union made products, as is the case today.

If you are a particular brand loyalist, you may feel devastated by the above changes. But most car enthusiasts will still have lots of vehicular choices.

The Siren Of Rover: Dan Neil, referring to Land Rovers and their dismal reputation for reliability, writes: "They sit in the garage at night thinking of ways to break your heart."

He continues, "And yet, like an abused spouse, the Land Rover buyer keeps coming back. Land Rover has some of the highest owner retention rates in the industry - in the prestige SUV segment, almost double the industry average. "But Mom, he's changed. This time I know it'll be different…." Why would people reenlist for such heartache? Well, it's the difference between consumerism and connoisseurship. Consumerism is a mind-set that requires products to perform with appliance-like reliability - a transactional, fee-for-service dynamic - even at the expense of charm or interest. Connoisseurship requires the opposite, preferring charisma over the quiet and everlasting servility of, say, a Honda. Land Rovers are positively lousy with charm, not to mention having the aristocratic, landed-gentry vibe going on. A Range Rover Supercharged with navy upholstery and ivory piping is about the most delicious British thing this side of Colston Bassett Stilton."

No, I didn't know what it was either. But I Googled it because I thought it might be some Brit actress/hottie. It's a cheese. I guess I should pay more attention to those Wallace and Grommit movies.

What's Wrong With Detroit (Episode 379): Robert Farago at TTAC writes, "As I closed the rear door of the top spec Cadillac DTS, I watched the side light above my head literally sputter and die. And there you have it: proof positive that the bean counters have been hard at work on The General's luxury brand. You want the lights to slowly fade up and down? Why? Anyway, we don't have that part. What else you do you need?"

For the record, my wife's Toyota Avalon has slow-fade interior lights - a nice feature. So did her '96 Lincoln Continental.

And, about the Caddy's trunk: "Yes, it's big. But it's ugly. Perhaps the only thing nastier than the DTS' mouse pelt headliner is the rancid rabbit fur covering the rear cavern."

The Caddy's transmission is a mere four-speed - in a five and six-speed world.

In summary, Farago calls the Cadillac DTS a "slower, gussied-up Buick."

PS - Best Farago line so far this week: "GM never misses an opportunity to miss an opportunity."

Calling Sir Mix-A-Lot: Stone Age male hunters whittled the outline shapes of their ideal women from flintstone, along with bone and ivory, to create decorative figurines.

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A study of 30 figurines from 15,000 years ago indicates they were "curvaceous womanly shapes with prominent buttocks."

Quote Of The Day is from Thomas Sowell: "If people had been as mealy-mouthed in centuries past as they are today, Ivan the Terrible would have been called Ivan the Inappropriate."

Monday March 12, 2007

One More Reason Why People Buy Hondas: Kelley Blue Book thinks that a 2007 Honda Accord with a six-cylinder engine will be worth 45 percent of the sticker price five years from now, while a 2007 Malibu with a V-6 engine will hold 29 percent of its value.

And I've never seen a Honda product on a rental car lot.

Movie Review: '300'. Damn. I thought it was a film about a Chrysler.

The Results Are In: I spent part of my weekend pouring over the 2007 Annual Auto Issue of Consumer Reports magazine. Despite the fact that CR and its readers don't always look at cars through an enthusiast's eyes, I put a lot of stock in their experiences. There is a large database for reliability info - over 1,300,000 vehicles.

I was particularly appalled at how badly most European cars and American cars rated compared with Asian vehicles, particularly Honda and Toyota.

CR quoted Ford's chief engineer, Paul Mascarenas, as saying that - when redesigning its models - the company now uses competitors' vehicles as benchmarks instead of simply improving its own outgoing models. Holy cow. American industry has been benchmarking for at least 30 years and Ford is just now getting around to it?!

sherlock car blogChrysler has yet to discover benchmarking, apparently. One of Consumer's testers compared sitting in a new Dodge Caliper model comparing its low-rent, unpleasant plastic interior to "being in a plastic ice cooler."

All of Consumer Reports' ten Top Picks were Japanese brands. Reporting on reliability by brand, both Toyota and Honda ranked 48% better than average. At the other end of the scale Mercedes Benz was 123% worse than average. Runner-up for 'worst' included Land Rover, Hummer, Jaguar, Jeep, Cadillac and Saturn.

Despite high rankings in CR's tests, which score a combination of performance, comfort and safety, not a single Mercedes model received a recommendation because of MB's atrocious reliability. 100% of all Honda and Subaru vehicles were recommended. 85% of all Toyotas received recommended status.

Chrysler vehicles were some of the crudest with low scores due to visibility, noise, ride, fit & finish, braking and fuel economy issues.

This year, Consumer Reports surveyed owner satisfaction, asking if buyers would purchase the same vehicle if they could do it all over. Based on the lowest scores, the 'I'm Driving A Pile-O-Crap' awards go to the Chevrolet Aveo, Malibu, Equinox, Colorado and Uplander as well as the Saturn Ion, Mitsubishi Galant, GMC Canyon, Buick Terraza, Ford Ranger, Infiniti QX and Volkswagen Touareg. The Chevy Uplander was the worst of the worst; 64% would never buy it again. General Motors should be horrified at its dominance of this POC list.

Finally, as a former Lincoln fan, I was deeply disturbed that the MKZ (nee Zephyr), Mark LT pickup and Town Car do not even offer vehicle stability control. 'What A Luxury Car Should Be', my ass.

ABBA The Hutt: I've never thought of myself as a '70s or '80s guy, but this appeals to me.

Today's Inspirational Thought: Teamwork ... means never having to take all the blame yourself.

Friday March 9, 2007

Hideous Kitty: The 2008 Jaguar XJ is a step in the wrong direction with the addition of a big ugly bumper and tacked-on trim. The various style cues/clichés are now as confusing as a car designed by M.C. Escher driving on a Möbius road.

Who's Your Doctor? Tim at Four Right Wing Wackos notes: "The Left are complaining about the state of Veterans Administration health care. Said care is the product of a massive leviathan Federal bureaucracy that is more interested in its own survival than it is in providing services to those whom it is chartered to serve.

Why are the Left complaining when they want to shackle the health care of all Americans to such a bureaucracy?"

On The Cheap: According to, Sen. John Kerry visited a restaurant in St. Louis and added only 2% to the signature line, while former Vice President Al Gore left only 8% at a restaurant in Alexandria, VA.

"Al and Tipper Gore were regulars in the restaurant I used to work at," wrote one bitter waitress. "You'd think this would be cool, waiting on a former vice president. And it would be, if not for the fact that Al Gore is cheap." (Yes, yes, I acknowledge the irony of Mrs. Gore's first name.)

As someone who once worked for tips, I don't want a cheapskate for president. It's waaaay too serious of a character flaw and an indicator of other, even-more-serious flaws.

sherlock auto blogToast Him With A Gallon Of Hearty Burgundy: Ernest Gallo, the patriarch of E&J Gallo Winery - the largest winemaker in the world, died at 97 this week.

Gallo produces not only wines under its own name but Thunderbird and Ripple as well.

Gallo produces one in every four bottles of wine sold in the United States and has an estimated annual revenue of $1.5 billion.

Quote Of The Day is from Conan O'Brien on Panama: "Congratulations, you have the second-busiest canal after Paris Hilton."

Wednesday March 7, 2007

Washaerobics: The weather was beautiful on Monday and Tuesday - 65 degrees and sunshine - so I washed the Jag. For exercise only, because it is supposed to rain for the next ten days. But the Jag was quite filthy and needed a good rinse.

I'm also coughing less, so I guess my cold is getting better.

Will The Official Announcement Be Made On April 1st? Chrysler apparently wants to put the deplorably ugly Imperial concept into production.

Where Time Stands Still: The U.S. Post Office is removing clocks from 37,000 postal outlets in order to alleviate the problem of people feeling like they're waiting in line for two long. "A clockless atmosphere will apparently encourage a state of meditative interest in the workings of the postal service, without distracting with the sense of time's fleeting passage."

Quote Of The Day is from James Lileks: "In my childhood home the fridge was turquoise, with a chrome tailfin for a handle. It looked like a casket for Chevy designers."

Monday March 5, 2007

Enjoy The Wines; Ignore The Cars: Blackstone Group, a private-equity giant with stakes in more than 100 companies, has emerged as a leading contender to buy the troubled U.S. division of German automaker DaimlerChrysler AG, according to an article in The Detroit News.

I dunno if I'd buy a Sebring from them, but they make a fairly decent Merlot.

Interesting Statistic: In 1890, the average British adult traveled the sum total of 35 miles per year. 100 years later, the figure was 35 miles per day.

Worst Buy: Cory Doctorow at BoingBoing writes that Best Buy has admitted to maintaining a fake version of its website for internal use at its stores. This is part of a scam where Best Buy lists cheap prices online and invites customers to come to the store to take advantage of them. When the customer gets there, a dirtbag salesman loads up the fake website and shows them that the price has "gone up" while the customer was driving over to the store and offers to sell the item for the new price.

Hollywood Hypocrites: James Lileks writes, "If environmentalism is the new religion, the Oscar ceremony was the High Holy Mass. Of course, if the Academy - a remarkable name for people who paint their faces and pretend they're secret agents or royalty - were truly serious about imminent global warming, it would have asked everyone to turn off their TVs and receive the results by some low-impact Earth-friendly means, such as carrier pigeon."

He adds, "Once the bright lights of a city stood as a sign of civilization, a candle that cast out the night and brought the boon of Prometheus to every humble shack; now darkness is a sign of enlightenment. ... Why, look at those satellite photos of North Korea at night. State control of energy usage, no industry, no cars, no messy pointless "freedom'' to hurt our one and only Mother. Seen from above, it's utterly dark. They're years ahead of the rest of us."

Question Of The Day: Would a fly without wings be called a walk?

Friday March 2, 2007

Book Update: Thanks for all the orders. I'm now sold out of the final printing of my business book.

Me Update: I have been fighting a bad cold all week. It started last Friday night when we were out of town. And went downhill from there. I am feeling somewhat better but have lost my voice. Am running on less than eight cylinders.

Site Update: The main portion of this website has always been devoted to my management consulting business. Two years ago, I stopped accepting new clients and took steps to reduce the size of my practice in preparation for my eventual retirement. But I left the forty-plus pages of the consulting site up because it helped sell my business book.

Now that I am out of the book biz, I have removed the consulting portion of This was a fairly time-consuming task, as I had to figure out which pages to delete, etc. and remove all the various graphs, tables and images as well.

I also removed now-dead links from some of my other pages. And I updated and revised some of the material (mostly newsletter articles) which I've kept and moved over to the Greatest Hits portion of the site. I'm particularly proud of the revised Aerotrain page, which includes more information on the Zooliner Aerotrain replica which runs at the Washington Park Zoo in Portland, Oregon.

The main page of my site has an entirely new look - decidedly non-business.

Car Mags: Peter DeLorenzo of AutoExtremist writes that "ad spending by the Detroit Three (in car buff mags) has plummeted at an alarming rate. We first commented that the monthly car mag model was dead back in February of '06 - and things have accelerated downhill since then as the auto makers scramble to spend their money on other things besides car ads in glossy magazines" ... "Yes, a few titles will survive" - Peter mentions Road & Track and AutoWeek - "but except for their online personas, the old-line, hard-copy buff books are going to be gone daddy gone in no time."

Peter says that AutoWeek "still clings to a modicum of immediacy in the Internet age." Davey Johnson at Jalopnik quips, "Wait a second, Mister Extremist, don't you publish weekly, as well?" Good point.

Nevertheless, I agree with Peter. By the time info appears in buff magazines, it's ancient. Twenty years ago, my primary sources of car info were Motor Trend and Road & Track. Now I'm down to one car magazine - AutoWeek - and, when my subscription runs out, I won't be renewing it. Thanks to the web, I'm getting more car information than ever. And it's free. Technology rules.

I have more thoughts on car magazines posted here.

More Car Mag Stuff: I (and others) have written that the buff mags have shot themselves in the foot by paying more attention to the wants of advertisers rather than those of its readers. By doing so, they've failed in their attempts to produce a fair and objective publication.

Additional proof is supplied by Stephan Wilkinson, who was once the editor-in-chief of Car and Driver:

"When the Datsun F210 was introduced to the press, several of us from C/D attended the intro and we agreed, this car is so bad we need to tell the world. Well, I was point man, so the job fell to me."

"When my polite but very negative review was published, the senior vice-president of the Ziff-Davis Publishing Co. immediately called me into his office and raged at me, "How can you write this (pointing to my review) when right here (flip-flip-flip-flip to the full-spread ad for the F210 in the very same issue) it says this, and this, and this????" Well, we have a duty to the readers, I said while tugging my forelock."

"F**k the readers!" he thundered. "You have a duty to the advertisers, you moron!"

Nuff said.

Phrase Of The Week: Frank Williams at TTAC refers to the possible hookup of Chrysler and GM as a "merger of dunces."


This blog is about cars, automobiles, vehicles of various sorts and more.

The facts presented in this car blog are based on my best guesses and my substantially faulty geezer memory. The opinions expressed herein are strictly those of the author and are protected by the U.S. Constitution. Probably.

Spelling, punctuation and syntax errors are cheerfully repaired when I find them; grudgingly fixed when you do.

If I have slandered any brands of automobiles, either expressly or inadvertently, they're most likely crap cars and deserve it. Automobile manufacturers should be aware that they always have the option of trying to change my mind by giving me free cars to test.

If I have slandered any people or corporations in this car blog, either expressly or inadvertently, they should buy me strong drinks (and an expensive meal), while patiently attempting to prove that they're not the jerks I've portrayed them to be. If you're buying, I'm willing to listen.

Don't be shy - try a bribe. It might help.

copyright 2007 - Joseph M. Sherlock - All applicable rights reserved