A Blog About Cars ... And More
Friday February 5, 2016
Best Jag Description Of The Century: At Road & Track, Sam Smith wrote that a restored XK 120 as "a stunning cross between manor house and the prime real estate of a woman's birthday suit. The fenders were a sine wave.
The interior appeared to have been laid out for laughs: tach in front of the passenger, and a horn button made large for no apparent reason, except to resemble one of Mae West's … horn buttons."
Fresh Kill: After 13 years, Toyota is discontinuing its Scion brand. Toyota sold a total of 1,092,675 cars under the Scion marque from 2003 to the end of 2015. That's slightly more than 91,000 cars per year, spread over several models - probably not a profitable number for an economy line of cars. In 2015, Scion sold just over 56,000 cars last year - spread over five models. Consider that more than 360,000 Toyota Corollas were sold in 2015 as well as more than 429,000 Camrys.
Starting with the 2017 model year, all surviving Scion models will be rebadged as Toyotas. I'm not surprised. Here are three reasons for the brand's demise:
Initially, the tC coupe and xB box were winners but eventually people realized that the coupe was cramped and thirsty for such a little car. The xB was replaced with the much larger xD box which bombed. People who wanted a little box went to their local Kia dealer and bought a Soul. A few of the loonier ones went to a Nissan dealer and bought a Cube.
The Scion iQ was a dismal failure. Around these parts, Asian vehicles are king but, in all these years, I've only seen two iQs on the road. I've sighted three to four times as many Smart cars during the same period.
Scion joins Geo, Eagle and Merkur on the scrap heap of brands launched by segment-obsessed manufacturers who misread the market.
Buh-Bye: The overpriced, Chevy Volt-based Cadillac ELR coupe will be discontinued.
Originally priced at $76,000, Cadillac only sold 1,024 ELRs last year, down 22% from 2014's totals. By comparison, the Chevy Volt moved more than 15,000 units.
The vehicle was previewed at the 2009 Detroit Auto Show, in the form of a concept called the Converj.
Senior Moment: I don't know how this happened but I forgot to upload the bubble-topped 'Plymouth, the California Pizza Kitchen woody and the 'Thirteenth Floor' cop car when I updated my '39 Plymouth website two years ago.
I've now corrected the error and you'll find photos here.
Bad Timing: I guess I moved to the Pacific Northwest too late to get in on this deal:
RIP: Bob Elliot, half of the low-key comedy duo, Bob & Ray, has died at 92 from thoat cancer. Bob was the skinny one without the moustache. Ray Goulding died in 1990.
"Bob was the more soft-spoken one, Ray the deep-voiced and more often blustery one were unusual among two-person comedy teams. Rather than one of them always playing it straight and the other handling the jokes, they took turns being the straight man."
They specialized in debunking gasbags, political airheads, no-talent entrepreneurs and Madison Avenue hypemasters, hawking such products as Einbinder Flypaper: "The flypaper you've gradually learned to trust over the course of three decades." Or the Monongahela Metal Foundry: "Steel ingots cast with the housewife in mind."
"Their weapon was not caustic satire but wry understatement."
Bad Pun Of The Day: Two cows are standing next to each other in a field. Daisy says to Dolly, "I was artificially inseminated this morning." "I don't believe you," says Dolly. "It's true - no bull!" exclaims Daisy.
Wednesday February 3, 2016
January Auto Sales: Light vehicle sales were at a 17.5 million SAAR (Seasonally Adjusted Annual Rate) in January - up about 5% from last January and down slightly from last month. These positive numbers were surprising considering the crippling East Coast snowstorm in January.
General Motors posted U.S. sales of 203,745 vehicles, a fractional percent increase compared with January 2015. Retail deliveries rose 9%, fleet deliveries slipped 6%. Buick sales jumped a whopping 46%, making it January's fastest growing brand. Cadillac sales fell 8% to 10,740 vehicles.
Ford Motor Co. reported a U.S. sales decrease of 3% year-over-year in January, to 173,723 Ford and Lincoln vehicles, compared with January 2015 sales of 178,351. Retail sales declined 11% and increased fleet sales were not enough to offset the decline. Truck sales rose fractionally for the month but sales of the new F-150 pickups dropped more than 5% to 50,540 vehicles. Car sales fell 12%. One rosy note: Sales of the Lincoln brand rose 8% year-over-year to 7,174 units.
FCA/Chrysler sales were up 7% helped by Jeep (up 15%) and Dodge (up 19%) but the Chrysler brand dropped a whopping 22% and Fiat sales declined 20% to 2,594 vehicles.
Toyota Motor Co's sales were down 6% although the Toyota RAV4 remains the best-selling SUV/CUV and the Toyota Camry remains America's best selling sedan.
Surprisingly, Nissan outsold Honda (97,220 vs.90,247), primarily on the strength of its trucks and crossovers. Volkswagen sales declined 15% in January.
Mercedes was the best-selling premium brand in January (25,563 units, up 1.6%); Lexus finished second (20,933 vehicles, down 10%). Third-place BMW sold 18,082 vehicles - a drop of 5%.
Bring A Large Check: At the Detroit Auto Show, the 2017 Porsche 911 Turbo S cabriolet was on display. The sports car has a 580 horsepower 3.8 liter twin-turbo flat six engine and is priced at a whopping $188,000.
Porsche claims that this 911 will do 0-60 in 2.8 seconds.
The Universal Problem With Mass Transit: James Lileks wrote that "while driving around downtown I found myself not driving at all, because the lights prohibited forward motion when the light rail was in the neighborhood. One train was going west; the other, a few minutes later, was going east. The tracks pierce the intersection at an odd angle. No car moved for about five minutes.
Six light-rail cars, three per direction, trundled past. I counted 14 occupants."
When watching transit buses go by in Clark County Washington, I used to see full-size buses with only 6 or 7 passengers onboard. Then C-Tran got clever and tinted the windows to a much darker shade than is legal for passenger vehicles. Now I can't see anything. (permalink)
Iowa Caucus Results & What They Mean: Short answer - not much. Previous winners include such non-presidents as Rick Santorum, Mike Huckabee and Bob Dole.
The conventional wisdom is that, to win Iowa, you have to love 1. Jesus and 2. Ethanol. This combo doesn't apply to any other state that I know of. Ted Cruz always loved Jesus but was late to the game on ethanol and remains a Big Corn agnostic. But he won anyway. Trump came in a respectable second and Rubio a close third. It's looking more and more like the Republican primaries are now a three-man race.
Jeb got a mere 3% of the vote. Never in history has anyone used so much money to get so few votes. He spent $2,884 per vote in Iowa.
Hillary defeated Bernie by such a narrow margin that the race ended in a virtual dead heat. This makes Hillary the big loser because she was expecting a coronation, not a contest. Six precincts ended up with tie votes and each flipped a coin to decide. Hillary won all which sounds statistically suspicious.
I think it would have been more fun to decide tie votes by having Hillary and Bernie compete in a potato sack race.
If I were a Democrat, I'd vote for Bernie Sanders just to see what a black, heavily-armored presidential Prius looks like.
Republicans Huckabee, Paul, Santorum and Democrat O'Malley have "suspended" their campaigns - in other words, dropped out of the race. Expect more low-ranking Republican candidates to drop out after New Hampshire's primary next week.
Who's A Racist? The Democratic meme is that Republicans are a bunch of racists. Yet, while three white people were duking it out for a win in Iowa, 60% of white Iowa Republicans voted for two Hispanics and a black man.
Book Review: 'The Time Of Our Lives: Collected Writings' by Peggy Noonan
This book consists of the best of Noonan's columns covering the past 20+ years. Peggy always makes for a good read. Her writing is breezy yet exquisite. And often profound. Even if you disagree with her, she gets her points across. She adroitly covers ... (more >>>)
Coincidence ... Or What? Groundhog Punxsutawney Phil did not see his shadow yesterday and then the Dow fell 296 points.
Here's A Great Business Idea ... from Tom McMahon: "If I were the Chipotle CEO I would just give up and re-brand all my restaurants as Quick Weight Loss Centers."
Quote Of The Day is from Thomas Sowell: "Someone once said that the most important knowledge is knowledge of our own ignorance. Our schools are depriving millions of students of that kind of knowledge by promoting "self-esteem" and encouraging them to have opinions on things of which they are grossly ignorant, if not misinformed."
Monday February 1, 2016
2016 Scottsdale Auctions: As usual, the various Arizona collector vehicle auctions were full of aging white dudes with buckets of cash bidding up car prices toward the stratosphere as they sought their automotive nirvana du jour. Or the nostalgia of their youth.
How old are these guys? Looking at the televised Barrett-Jackson events, I'd guess that the age of the average seat holder was 50-65. Hemmings Motor News used to claim that its average subscriber was 52 years-old. And that number didn't change much from decade to decade.
It makes sense: By one's early 50s, the kids are out of college and out of the house, the mortgage is shrinking (or paid off) and it's usually peak income time at work. This adds up to Disposable Income to spend on various toys.
It's impossible to cover the various auctions in their entirety, so here is a sampling of cars that I found interesting:
At Bonhams, the first production Kaiser Darrin - a white one with the signature 'Darrin dip' on the side of the body and its unique sliding doors - crossed the block at $198,000. Only 435 Kaiser Darrins were made.
The same auction company sold a 1962 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Roadster for $1,485,000; a 1971 Ferrari 365 GTB/4 Daytona Berlinetta which went under the gavel for $1,155,000; a 1928 Mercedes-Benz 630K La Baule Transformable, which crossed the block at $973,500; a 1935 Hispano-Suiza K6 cabriolet, which sold for $869,000 and a 1965 Aston Martin DB5 sports saloon, which sold for $781,000.
Gooding & Co. sold a ... (more >>>)
Pickup Game: In 2015, the top three vehicles sold in the U.S. were: 1. Ford F-Series pickup, 2. Chevrolet Silverado pickup and 3. Ram pickup. The Toyota Camry took fourth place, followed by the Toyota Corolla.
Iowa Republican Debate: By the time today is over, we'll know who won the Iowa Caucus. As for last Thursday's debate, I thought the winner - strategically - was Donald Trump. He held his own show at the same time as the debates. Trump raised over $6 million for veterans' causes. Rick Santorum and Mike Huckabee appeared with him. I enjoyed The Trump Show - it was patriotic and uplifting.
NBC and the Los Angeles Times also declared Trump the winner of the debate. The Chicago Tribune wrote, "Trump's absence left a vacuum on the debate stage."
Who lost? Maybe, Fox News, which led its "debate" with a cheap shot at Trump. Megyn Kelly (now a celebrity and GQ cheesecake model) and Chris Wallace played the gotcha game with the candidates, picking mainly on Ted Cruz. Cruz and Marco Rubio took hits from Fox News in the form of video clips that catch them contradicting the positions on immigration they're taking in this campaign. By skipping the debate, Trump avoided the kind of embarrassment Cruz and Rubio experienced.
The debate was diminished by The Donald's absence. And Fox allowed two YouTube liberal chicks - one a Muslim activist who apparently was originally put on the program to ambush Trump. She is also a Bernie Sanders supporter, having tweeted a photo of herself wearing a Feel The Bern sweatshirt. Why would Fox News do this? Would any network allow a Cruz supporter to ask questions in a Dem debate? I think not.
I thought the debate winners were Christie, Cruz and Carson (in that order), although no one else seemed to like Ben that evening.
Trump won the Drudge Report presidential poll, with 61% of the vote. Cruz came in second at 19%. Rubio was third with 8%; Paul came in fourth with 5%. All the other candidates polled less than 1.5%.
Not A Good Trend: Weekly attendance at the Church of England has fallen below one million for the first time in history, while Sunday service attendance dropped to 760,000.
The weekly figure accounts for about 2% of the population in the United Kingdom and reflects a downward trend in church attendance amid the growing popularity of secularism and religious diversity, particularly among the nation's youth.
Current figures show attendance numbers falling 12% over the past decade to less than half the levels seen 40 years ago, when Sunday attendance stood at approximately 1.25 million.
Good News: Follow up tests - a PET scan and CEA blood work - indicated that the cancer hasn't returned. The CEA test measures cancer markers - carcinoembryonic antigen - in the blood. Mine is now 0.5, which is well within normal range (0-2.5 µg/L). The PET scan indicated that the tumor has shrunk further; in fact, they were unable to find it. My next tests will occur in early May.
My foot drop condition has improved to the point where I no longer use a cane or foot brace. (permalink)
Cat Fight! When two stewardesses got into a fist fight on a Delta flight traveling from Los Angeles to Minneapolis, the captain decided to make an unscheduled landing in Salt Lake City.
"A third woman on the plane tried to break up the fight and was also hit by the brawling flight attendants. At that point, the captain made the decision to land the Boeing 757. The plane was flying just south of Salt Lake City when the fight broke out."
Quote Of The Day is from Ayn Rand: "We are fast approaching the stage of the ultimate inversion: the stage where the government is free to do anything it pleases, while the citizens may act only by permission."
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