GM and Ford join Hyundai in offering payment protection plans. Any value?

In January, Hyundai addressed consumer uncertainly by providing job loss insurance with every sale. Lose your job? Then return the car, and they’ll make up the difference between the trade-in value and what you owe, up to $7,500. But only if you lost your job within a year of purchase. Later they enhanced the plan. Lose your job, and they’ll… More →

Washington’s dangerous fixation on fuel economy

The Presidential Task Force on Autos released it’s New Path to Viability for GM and Chrysler. The administration has concluded that GM can come back strong after a restructuring, but that Chrysler must link up with someone else, specificially Fiat. So far, so good. The problem: “The new GM will have a significant focus on developing high fuel-efficiency cars that… More →

Wagoner resigns from GM; what should the new CEO do?

Just announced: due to pressure from the Obama administration, GM CEO Rick Wagoner will soon resign. Personally, I don’t fault Wagoner, at least not more than I’d fault any conventionally-minded CEO. The problem wasn’t Wagoner per se, but the typical American way of doing business: decisions from the top when those with the most knowledge are much lower in the… More →

Jaguar and Buick tie for the top spot in J.D. Power’s 2009 VDS. What’s up with this?

J.D. Power has reported that for the first time in 14 years Lexus didn’t get the top average score in their Vehicle Dependability Study (VDS). Instead, Buick and Jaguar tied for the top spot. How did Lexus fall so far? Well, they didn’t. They’re only four problems per 100 cars (1/25 of a problem per car) behind the leaders. Not… More →

Rear-wheel-drive: still a disadvantage for many drivers?

Back in the 1980s GM, Ford, and Chrysler transitioned nearly all of their rear-wheel-drive cars to front-wheel-drive. The primary reason: front-wheel-drive cars inherently weigh a little less because there’s no need for a driveshaft running about half the length of the car, and reducing weight helps fuel economy. Other reasons included the superior space efficiency of front-wheel-drive cars, since the… More →

VW and Audi still using DIN rather than SAE horsepower ratings?

Back in 2002, Jaguar had to restate the power output of its engines in the U.S. because it had been using the DIN (German) rather than the SAE (American) formula for horsepower. Since 100 DIN horsepower are equal to 98.6 SAE horsepower, Jaguar’s “400-horsepower” supercharged V8 ended up being credited with a less impressive 390. (Why not 394? Apparently it… More →

Honda Insight priced; is it really much less than the Toyota Prius?

Honda announced pricing for the 2010 Insight hybrid today, and I rushed it into the database. The 2010 Honda Insight’s base price of $20,470 is over $2,000 less than the MSRP of a base 2009 Toyota Prius. This is the cornerstone of Honda’s strategy with the car. But the 2009 Prius includes about $1,000 in additional standard equipment, and Toyota… More →

iPod integration in a car — why so costly?

It wasn’t long ago that luxury cars were available with a cell phone built in. But, for many reasons, this isn’t the future. Instead, with cell phones and, more recently, music players like Apple’s iPod, the trend is to have these devices integrate with the car’s controls and audio system, but not to have them built into the car. Might… More →

$10,000 rebate

Well, it was bound to happen.Factory-to-dealer incentives have reached $10,000 in the past for some very expensive luxury models that failed to sell. But I’ve never come across a $10,000 rebate–until now. Saab is on it’s deathbed, with just a slim chance of surviving. So GM has amped up the rebates on remaining 2008 Saabs. The 9-3 Aeros and the… More →

Are Detroit’s sins all in the past?

Manufacturing productivity guru Jim Harbour recently suggested that GM’s and Ford’s problem is not manufacturing cost but that “they have a legacy of poor quality in the past, so they have to put $3,000 on the hood of a car because of lingering perceptions.” This is an argument heard frequently from Detroit’s backers lately, that GM and Ford (Chrysler not… More →