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OnStar In Action
Aug13

OnStar In Action

By Charles Krome

GM’s OnStar technology has been around for some 15 years now, and its impact on the auto industry is hard to overstate. OnStar essentially kicked off the whole automotive telematics industry in 1996, blazing the trail for today’s ubiquitous nav and hands-free calling systems, as well as more comprehensive offerings like Ford’s SYNC.

It’s not just an expensive toy, either. The current OnStar system offers functionality that can be legitimately called “life-saving.” If you’re in an accident, for example, the system can automatically send emergency medical services to your location in minutes, even if you’re unconscious or can’t otherwise respond. And it can come in pretty handy when dealing with a range of less serious annoyances, from getting yourself locked out of your car to having it stolen. In the latter case, OnStar can track down your ride and then shut down power to its engine in some situations.

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Is the 2012 Mercedes-Benz A-Class Coming to the US?
Aug11

Is the 2012 Mercedes-Benz A-Class Coming to the US?

By George Straton

Is a Premium Compact Hatchback with the Three Pointed Star from Sindelfingen (via Hungary) coming to a U.S. Mercedes-Benz dealer near you in 2013?

Few Americans associate the luxury car builder or its Three Pointed Star emblem, with anything other than large, stately, robust and expensive luxury sedans and sporty cars and the lifestyle engendered by the same.  Yet in markets outside the U.S., where gasoline retails for $7 U.S. per gallon and urban parking is space on the sidewalk that hasn’t been taken by a two perpendicular parked SMART cars, the company has found some decent success with a FF (Front Engine, Front Wheel Drive) compact layout.

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Chrysler, GM, and Ford Dominate YTD Fleet Sales
Aug10

Chrysler, GM, and Ford Dominate YTD Fleet Sales

We say there’s no way that Chrysler can get to 25 percent fleet by December 31.

By Chris Haak

The auto industry’s paper of record, Automotive News, did a nice piece of reporting in this week’s issue (link  [sub], via ) on the explosion in fleet sales at Ford, GM, and Chrysler so far during 2010.  Thanks to a thorough review of internal documents, conversation with s at the manufacturers, and its own estimates, AN has painted a less-than-rosy picture of the sales mix behind the overall sales gains we’re seeing in the industry so far during 2010.  Basically, retail sales are nearly flat – if not shrinking – at GM and Chrysler, and both companies’ fleet/retail mix is more heavily skewed toward fleet than toward retail than is typical.

Generally, automakers try to keep sales that go to fleets at or below 25 percent of their total sales volume.  There are three main types of fleet sales – commercial fleets, government fleets, and daily rental fleets.  Sales to commercial and government fleet buyers aren’t as bad as sales to daily rental fleet buyers, because those first two types tend to hold onto the vehicles longer, maintain them well, and have a specific driver assigned to the vehicle.  Sales to daily rental fleets are not good because, well, we all know how people treat rental cars.  Worse still, rental cars are usually not well-equipped examples, and once their useful life has been exhausted, the rental companies dump them at auctions, which depresses the resale values of the same model everywhere.  That tends to anger consumers, and also tends to make leasing those specific vehicles a more expensive endeavor.  Finally, sales to daily rental fleet buyers are typically heavily discounted, meaning there’s little profit for automakers from the sales.  But hey, they keep the factories running, right?

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New Recaro Kid Seats: Perfect for the Day-Care 500
Aug10

New Recaro Kid Seats: Perfect for the Day-Care 500

By Charles Krome

In my last article, I spouted off a bit about how the next generation of minivans may finally see the kind of design changes that would make hauling the kids around look like a cool thing to do. But it turns out that parents don’t have to wait for a Dodge man van, or even the 2011 Nissan Quest, to play Jimmie Johnson with junior in the back. You can just order one of Recaro’s new child safety seats.

Yes, the company renowned for protecting the butts of some of the world’s best race-car drivers—and outfitting some of the world’s top-performing production vehicles—now offers a line of top-quality safety seats for children ranging in size from 5 lbs. to 120.

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What GM and Apple Can Learn From One Another
Aug05

What GM and Apple Can Learn From One Another

By Chris Haak

All of us at Techshake are obviously dedicated car buffs.  Gasoline (or perhaps diesel fuel) runs through our veins, and our joints are lubricated by Mobil 1.  But several of us are also serious technology geeks.  It pained many of us to see what this industry has gone through over the past two years, and yet, rising from the wreckage of laid-off workers, closed auto plants, stiffed shareholders and bondholders, and a government on the hook for some $50 billion-with-a-B in bailout funds, we’re beginning to see an exciting round of outstanding new vehicles.

In the so-called ‘malaise era’ of the 1970s and 80s, small, efficient, and – most importantly – reliable Japanese imports swept into a post oil embargo America and ate the American automakers’ collective lunches.  Followed by their breakfasts, dinners, and desserts as well.  This time, it feels different.  Propulsion technology has sufficiently advanced so that cars can be fun-to-drive and efficient.  Big block V8s are no longer required (nor are they even produced anymore) for screaming fun in a new car.  Who needs a big block when the 2011 Mustang GT’s 5.0 doubles the 1993 Mustang GT’s 5.0’s horsepower output (412 vs. 205)?  And yet, the 2011 Mustang GT with the six-speed manual is rated at the same 26 miles per gallon highway rating that the 105-horsepower 2.3 liter base Mustang achieved with a four-speed automatic.  Quadruple the horsepower with the same fuel economy sounds good to me.  Domestic cars in large part have similar (sometimes better, sometimes worse) quality scores to Japanese cars.  Let’s look at this issue more closely.

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The Chevrolet Volt and the Price of Success
Aug03

The Chevrolet Volt and the Price of Success

By Charles Krome

On the odd chance Techshake readers haven’t yet heard, GM will be launching a new, extended-range electric vehicle in a few months, with that product slated to offer both a 40-mile all-electric range and the ability to go a further 300 miles by leveraging an on-board, gas-powered generator.

Now, the Chevrolet Volt is far from perfect, but it surely doesn’t deserve the vitriol being spewed in its direction by certain members of the media. I mean, some of these people seem to think the Volt rollout will be the worst thing to happen to this country since the BP oil disaster.

Take the Volt’s sticker price. Sure, $41,000 looks kind of steep, and for some of the GM haters, the federal tax credit of $7,500 only makes things worse. For these people, the car is priced artificially low, preventing the free market from determining the Volt’s fate. On the other hand, other analysts claim the Volt is priced too high and that GM should be following the strategy used by Toyota when it introduced the Prius. When that car first went on sale, the automaker sold it at a $15,000-per-vehicle loss to ensure it would be popular, giving up short-term profits for long-term success.

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